Associates new to the Assembly Department complained that the orientation training was inadequate. A Team comprised of representatives from the Safety, Production, Medical and Wellness Departments revised the existing training to focus on four separate areas and continue twice as long. To date the training has increased safety, quality and productivity and improved annualized savings of Honda of America (HAM).
The Assembly Department at the HAM East Liberty (Ohio) Plant received complaints of muscular aches, pains and soreness caused by the performance of unfamiliar physical tasks from new associates (both new to the Company and new to the Department) during their first 90 days.
The existing 5-day new hire orientation training was divided daily into two parts: half was learning safety fundamentals in the classroom, and half was shadowing an experienced production associate. Only one hour of the week was devoted to work simulation in a test-build or laboratory environment where associates learned how to hold tools, tighten fasteners, install small parts, etc.
A Team, comprised of members from the Safety, Production, Medical and Wellness Departments analyzed the deficiencies in the existing orientation training and discovered that while it incorporated safety policies and procedures in the classroom, it did not provide hands-on instruction for using assembly tools and equipment that would lead to safe job performance. In addition, it did not physically prepare new associates for the rigors of their new work environment. Plus, it provided only general information and minimal training to help new associates understand job tasks, safe work methods, and proper techniques. Finally, follow-up activity to ascertain whether or not the associates were proficient and competent at their new assignments was minimal.
After analyzing the existing 5-day orientation training, the Team developed and implemented an expanded 10-day new hire orientation program to be completed before new associates started their jobs in the Assembly Department. In addition to the previous classroom training and work simulation, the new orientation program includes physical conditioning and on-the-job training. Like sports camp prior to the season, the physical conditioning program "work hardens" new hires by devoting 20 hours to build their endurance and cardiovascular abilities, flexibility, range of motion, and strength. In addition, a work simulation segment teaches associates the best techniques and postures for, as well as the potential hazards of, the tasks they will perform (e.g., tightening nuts and bolts and using powered tools, equipment and other assist devices). The on-the-job training portion allows associates to demonstrate that they know the steps of their new job processes. Periodic follow-up sessions occurring at least once a week (or more frequently if the new associate reports any problems or concerns) between a Team member and new associate during his/her first 90 days ensure that the progress of the new associate is reviewed, safe work methods are reinforced, and concerns of the new associate are addressed.
As a result of the implementation of the new orientation training, the associates at HAM's Assembly Department meet the physical requirements of their assignments and demonstrate safer work techniques and awareness of job hazards. The Department has observed a 40-percent reduction in incidents occurring during the first 90 days of the new associates' assignments. Quality and productivity measures have improved, and initial annualized net savings for HAM have reached $341,000. This figure includes injury cost avoidance plus quality and productivity savings less the cost to implement the improved orientation program, which includes the cost of procuring training equipment plus the labor costs for both the trainers and the trainees. The projected cost to expand the program to all plants is $900,000, which is on target as this program has been slowly introduced to other plants/departments. The complete full implementation at all plants is expected by June 2010. The savings once the program is expanded to all plants is projected to be approximately $3,000,000 (injury cost avoidance plus any quality and productivity enhancements less the projected program costs) for the first year; the projected cost savings for the following year is expected to decrease reflecting the approximately 50-percent reduction in injuries during the first 90 days of a new hire's assignment as demonstrated in the data from the first year that this program has been in effect. This project earned the Team the Applied Ergonomics Conference Committee Ergo Cup award in Training and Education in March 2008.
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