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FLEXO Magazine : February 2011
Plants & Processes InterFlex Group: Builds Skills of People & Competitiveness of Company FIrst certification of Press operators, Implementation specialists & the Plant, Will Drive Process Improvement By Duane Woolbright Seldomintoday’sworldcananyoneclaimtrue“first- ever” status, but in the small Appalachian foothill community of Wilkesboro, NC, a significant number of InterFlex Group Inc., employees can collectively say they truly accomplished that feat. This past December, InterFlex Group was informed by the Foundation of Flexographic Technical Association that 20 press crew members, working within FFTA’s Virtual Campus, were the “first ever” officially certified Level III FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifica- tions and Tolerances) Certified press operators! Having so many press operators complete FFTA’s Level III certification training, the capstone course for press operators, was a fact not lost on the management of InterFlex Group. “We couldn’t have been more proud of this accomplishment by our employees,” stated Rick Zeber, vice president and general manager for North American Operations. To honor the hard work and dedication of its crewmem- bers in completing the training program, the company held a celebration dinner and recognition ceremony at one of the county ’s top dining establishments. “ You did a great job in taking on this training effort and the company certainly feels you deserve this special evening as the first to reach this plateau in our industry,” Zeber said in addressing the gathering. “ This training represents one of the key elements of an ongoing process to improve the skills of our people and the competiveness of our company.” Zeber also thanked FFTA for developing the program that has become an integral part of the InterFlex Group training and employee development strategy. On hand to commemorate the milestone was FTA President Mark Cisternino and Education Director Joe Tuccitto. “ Inter- Flex Group was one of the inaugural companies to embrace this training at Level I and now it has come full circle to com- plete all three Levels of the FIRST Press Operator certification training,” said Cisternino. “Many companies are now enroll- ing in the certification training, but there is always something special and appropriate in recognizing the first company to take the lead and accomplish such a goal. ” During the informal “graduation ceremony ” following the dinner, each operator came up to receive a certificate, a cap bearing the official logo of a FIRST Certified Press Opera- tor and, most notably, he saw his name added to a plaque that will be displayed in the plant to publically showcase the team’s accomplishments. Tuccitto, who facilitated the online training, handed out the awards and then addressed the new alumni, “You were the first group to do this anywhere!” he stated. I congratulate you all. It’s been a long road to get here, nearly three years since we started this process.” Tuccitto went on to say during the InterFlex Group training, FTA’s Technical Education Services Team (TEST) used the plant as a “beta site,” a working environment to fully develop this new content as part of the TEST Virtual Campus, the website that houses all online training and professional devel- opment courses. What took the InterFlex Group crew nearly three years to complete during development phases is now a seamless process that takes the user from Level I through Level III training and full certification in about 30 weeks. During the evening, Tuccitto pointed out several operators who had been especially keen at keeping him busy with ques- tions about various technical topics in their weekly discus- sion; an integral part of all Level II and Level III certification training. Such interaction was “a real commentary about how far they had come over the many months of training together,” mused Tuccitto. He went on to inform the 20 new experts in FIRST press operations that this is only the beginning for them. “F IRST is living, breathing and ever changing, just like our industry. With that, we want you to have access to every FIRST update via a special FFTA website link reserved for those with full certification,” elaborated Tuccitto. Going forward all operators with a current Level III cer- tification can view updates, review training modules and take ongoing professional development classes as part of the FFTA Virtual Campus within their company ’s own online custom campus. As the evening drew to a close, the graduates gathered on the front porch of the once grand old home for a photo that would make an upcoming edition of the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, Wilkesboro’s own local newspaper. The local media presence at such an event shows how strongly this company ’s signifi- cant investment in employee training impacts the health of the entire community. A major employer in the county, InterFlex Group, showed it plans to stay competitive within its own industry and stay a vital part of the community. ComPany CommItment For many flexographic printing/converting operations, “company commitment” to employee training means giving the workers a scheduled, on-the-clock time to train or even overtime to get the lessons accomplished. In most cases, and for most plants, this is certainly considered reasonable. But InterFlex Group defines company commitment as going even deeper. Its “total” company commitment runs equally from CEO, to the supervisors and everyone on the pressroom floor. Tuccitto observed, “There were very few stragglers and if they were falling behind, the company was on the ball to take action to ensure nobody stayed behind for long. As a training facilitator, that meant I didn’t have to worry about delaying opening up the next week’s class online, or even reopening a class because people weren’t staying on task.” Even more impressive was that employee’s were not given comp time or allotted a timeframe during working hours to complete the training program. “It was their mission to com- plete the weekly one-hour modules on their own time. Not only did the press crews take to the challenge, but most did so fully engaged,” said Tuccitto. “ T here is a commitment to process improvement here at every level.” “In that regard,” followed Cisternino, “InterFlex Group has really created a model in terms of how a company should approach the FIRST certification process. We hope every con- verter and supplier will take a page from its play book when designing their own FIRST certification training.” Shane Miller, quality assurance manager, further explained the company ’s position, “We don’t set anyone’s alarm in the morning to make sure our employees get out of bed and get to work on time, that’s just part of the requirements for work- ing at InterFlex Group. The same goes for our investment in FIRST certification training for our people. We are providing a certification to improve their skills and knowledge. Being responsible for that training—on their time—is also part of the requirement for employment at InterFlex Group. ” Although the training is accessible 24 hours per day, seven days a week via personal login accounts, the company made sure everyone had access to a computer and the Internet. “Again, we had the computer at the plant, which was helpful with so many Level I trainees,” elaborated Miller. However, he further explained that by the time all 20 press operators were into the 12-week Level II course, very few actually used the on- site training room. “ The employees seem to prefer to work from home or even the library if they didn’t have their own computer or Internet access. They took their time, and as a whole, did the one hour per week training on time, as expected.” early adoPtIon, eventual rewardS Reaching full FIRST Operator certification doesn’t hap- pen overnight—especially in the case of InterFlex Group. As mentioned, it actually took several years for InterFlex Group, which worked closely with the FFTA as an early adopter of the online training, even before all the Press Operator Level II and III modules were fully developed. But once each came online, InterFlex Group users were there to complete the courses. www.flexography.org FeBruary 2011 FLEXO 49 FLX_Feb11_mech.indd 49 2/16/11 8:51 AM
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