In this situation, training is imperative since quality levels must to be maintained irrespective of the location of manufacture. What operators learn over years should now be done in months. This calls for a shorter and more precise training programme so that they can make quality products at the earliest possible time.
Some of our plants organise full-time training for operators who join as freshers. After three months, they are trained again to upgrade their skills. Each of them must undertake four levels of skills starting from the basic till the level he can teach others. The idea is to have operators trained depending upon specific needs of the location and to manage in the event of absenteeism or sudden exits. The short-term solution for crisis at the operator level is training.
Moving to second and third level of cities/towns would be a long-term solution. Understanding the value of the trained operator is imperative for organisations. Earlier, training was used as a motivational tool but it has now become a necessity. Since we cannot anymore inspect but produce quality, trained employees have become assets. In places like Chennai, I can even see a shortage of operators because there are many job openings in new businesses which are flexible and lucrative.
At Rane, we practise TQM where we have the EOS or employee opinion system. This is conducted every year at all locations. After the survey, we come up with the drivers and restrainers that people voice.
TAKING CORRECTIVE ACTION
Hence, the action plan of the survey becomes the managing point for our HR department which should take corrective action on the agreed points. This will reflect in the following year’s score on those attributes. One of the points that had come uniformly from all locations is that people are proud to work with Rane. With the EOS, we get everyone’s views whereas in the case of unionism we only hear the loudest voice!
The issue of engineers and managers poses a huge challenge because of the insatiable demand from multinationals coupled with the individual’s tearing hurry to grow. At one time, workers’ cost used to go up substantially but now managerial costs are soaring too. By carrying out corrections in salaries based on market conditions, Indian companies can tackle the issue only to an extent. Of course, this will eventually lead to an increase in overall cost too.
The manufacturing industry is not able to attract the best of graduate engineers. This is because they make a beeline for IT and service industries which assure a better working environment and attractive initial pay. In manufacturing, we cannot take a fresher who knows less than an operator at that kind of salary. It will upset the whole applecart.
At Rane, we introduced a scheme in which we appointed diploma holders and offered them intensive training before inducting them into the shopfloor. We conduct campus interviews in select polytechnics in Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
##### ACCEPTING REALITIES
This way, we replace graduate engineers with well trained diploma holders. Even then, the risk of people quitting the job cannot be eliminated. There are two realities that we have to accept: One, those given training may stick on for the first three years or so. Two, if we give them a working environment and enough responsibility to keep them challenged, there is a chance of retaining them.
We have a bunch of trainers and, with the support of an external agency, have developed a training schedule. At Rane, we have segregated people into three categories based on TQM approach. These are: a) those who have the capability but could not shine due to lack of initiative from the organisation; b) those who cannot and will not learn; and c) the in-between category.
We are taking proactive initiatives for the first category to make them grow while we are soft towards the third. People in the second have been asked to move on to non-TQM companies. At Rane, we look at the strong points of individuals and position them accordingly. Now we are focusing on productivity of managerial staff in terms of sales per employee against the earlier practice of number of pieces per manhour.
At the Rane Institute of Employee Development (RIED), we have regular and special programmes. As a group every year, we have a strategic review forum where every company gives a presentation on its business process across a five-year horizon. One of the vital aspects of the presentation relates to the competencies required for the company to reach the five-year goals and what are the probable gaps.
The corporate centre of Rane takes note of the common gaps and tries to design a programme for RIED to address the issue. We take help from educational institutions on special needs. For instance, on low-cost automation, we work with PSG College, Coimbatore. Earlier, we were associated with IIT Chennai for specific assignments.
To keep people motivated in today’s environment is highly challenging since they are not looking for jobs but tasks. So leadership is the key. We have so far been a south-focused company but cannot remain so since the dynamics of the industry have changed. We have set up two plants in Uttarakhand and are putting one up in Bawal, Haryana. More could become inevitable in the future.
One of the important things that we need to address is the issue on culture as this is needed to ensure the smooth sailing of any organisation. For instance, there is a big difference between the cultural ethos of the south and north. In order to tackle these issues, we have taken up internal leadership development. Most of the people of our group companies have come up the ranks and about 80 percent of senior management positions are filled up from the group internally."
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