New Hire Training to Accelerate Productivity and Quality

This article appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

The current workforce talent shortage situation in the U.S. is challenging. With a shrinking pool of candidates who have prior manufacturing experience and difficulty retaining skilled employees, manufacturers must put more effort into innovating an exceptional onboarding and new hire training experience.

Certified Operator Training Can Help

Effective Certified Operator Training (COT) is similar to a traditional apprentice program. COT has three main elements: lead operators trained to facilitate on-the-job training, a methodology to develop the content-based training and evaluation of trainee progress and employee competencies.

COT is effective because it standardizes your training to give lead operators training guidelines and tools while ensuring new employees have a structured approach to acclimating to their job duties. COT builds testing and verifications into the training process so that supervisors know their team members have the skills to be successful on the job. As a final measure of competence validation, all those who complete the COT program receive a certificate of completion.

COT Case Study — MAHLE St. Johns

In 2021, the MAHLE St. Johns plant, with about 250 employees, had more turnover than ever in their history. The plant had an existing train-the-trainer process where lead trainers were certified (and recertified) on a three- to four-year interval. But over time, with turnover and reassignment of experienced operators to critical operations, the process and content of new operator training became outdated.

Promotion of a new Training Coordinator was the catalyst to seek professional assistance in redesigning the plant’s existing new employee training. The Luminous Group worked with MAHLE over a six-week period to integrate COT into their existing training program. According to Joel Honaman, Human Resources Manager at the plant, “The program needed a facelift to help us enhance the training experience and create a more effective approach for training for our production team.”

Best of all, MAHLE qualified for Going PRO funding through the State of Michigan to offset the cost of their training overhaul.

Clearly Defined Training Phases

Ray Medina, MAHLE St. Johns’ Training Coordinator, defined five training phases, each with verification milestones. According to Ray, these phases “allow for us to confirm that operators have a deeper knowledge of their job. Instead of allowing operators to just know how to run their machines, they must know the reason why their job is important to the product and why certain characteristics are added during the process.”

The phases cover aspects including: initial orientation to the specific job, supervised practice with feedback, verification of knowledge and skills, troubleshooting for that job, understanding how defects impact down-stream operations and more.

Making COT Work for Your Organization
To assess your need to improve your new operator training, you can start by asking a few questions:

  • What support and certification do we provide our current lead operators / trainers?
  • How frequently are our training materials, work instructions and other job aids updated?
  • When was the last time we asked for feedback from employees?
  • Can any of our current customer issues be traced to incomplete training of new operators?

We can’t completely control turnover but we can be smart about who and how we train for new operators. When job training is well defined and verified, employees are safer, more productive and less likely to inadvertently produce defects or errors. The net effect of a comprehensive training program is to reduce turnover and make your plant more competitive in the long run.

About the Author

Murray SittsamerMurray Sittsamer is president of The Luminous Group. He may be reached at 248-561-5802 or

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