Drawing from data provided by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the year 2022, the four regions with the lowest global birth rates are as follows: Taiwan at 1.08, South Korea at 1.10, Singapore at 1.16, and Italy at 1.22. The aging of populations is a prominent global trend. It becomes more noticeable in highly advanced, industrialized, and economically developed countries and regions, where lower birth rates contribute to this phenomenon. This trend is especially observable in developed nations under the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
Given the trend and challenge of a declining birth rate, this has become one of the most frequent inquiries from SBL Machinery’s customers in recent years: ‘Finding technical talent in the printing and packaging industry is a challenge, and even when we do locate or develop skilled individuals, retaining them proves to be quite difficult. It’s believed that other industrial companies are also grappling with a shortage of technical personnel and human resources. In this edition, we delve deep into SBL’s expertise spanning over 50 years in the fields of Die Cutting, Folder Gluer, and Hot Stamping machine. Interestingly, the company experiences a low turnover rate among its technical personnel. The editor has put in considerable effort to ultimately gain the boss’s approval and has transparently put forth 6 ways to attract, retain, and address the pain points of this specific operation.
1. Establish product technical knowledge base
Many blue-collar tech workers, and likely even their white-collar counterparts, share similar concerns – the fear of being replaced by someone else is a driving factor behind this. Consequently, it’s quite possible that numerous operators or supervisors have encountered this scenario. Experienced technicians often see themselves as possessing both technical skills and substantial experience. In contrast, new technical staff in the company frequently face challenges due to a lack of guidance and patience.
Meanwhile, I find myself somewhat hesitant to completely share my accumulated experience and technological knowledge. This reluctance might arise from a common human tendency to feel apprehensive about being replaced by newcomers. It’s becoming increasingly common for new technical personnel to experience a high turnover rate.
With the continuous advancements in computerization and information systems, creating an internal knowledge base within a company is relatively straightforward. However, the real challenge lies in designing a system that not only facilitates the digital recording of knowledge by experienced technicians but also encourages their active participation.
If you’re interested in learning more about the template styles produced or acquired through the technical knowledge base, feel free to reach out to SBL Machinery. Using SBL Machinery as an example, separate knowledge bases exist for various product types, such as Die Cutting, Folder Gluer, and Hot Stamping machine. By establishing its own product technology knowledge base, the company can enjoy the following advantages:
1-1. Significantly reduce the turnover rate of new recruits
As a general guideline, the turnover rate for newly hired employees typically surpasses the company’s overall annual turnover rate.
According to TSMC‘s recently published sustainability report, a prominent wafer semiconductor company in Taiwan, the employee turnover rate for the preceding year (2022) was recorded at 6.8%, while new hires experienced a notably higher turnover rate of 17.6%.
Establishing a knowledge base can serve as an additional component to support the conventional technical mentoring system. The current cohort of young professionals entering the job market falls within Generation Z (referring to those born from the mid to late 1990s through the early 2010s). They often exhibit a deficiency in interpersonal communication skills.
In cases where a company has a specialized knowledge-sharing platform, this type of resource becomes pivotal in assessing their ability to consistently develop their professional expertise over the long term. It plays a pivotal role in tackling and surmounting the challenges they confront in their work.
1-2. Tackling the issue of carrying forward traditional, unadulterated master-apprentice techniques
In the context of a master-apprenticeship, the apprentice initially observes the master’s actions. As the apprentice gains more guidance and confidence from the master, they begin to work independently. The master then evaluates the apprentice’s methods and critical thinking in order to provide constructive feedback.
Frequently Asked Questions about Master-Apprentice Technology Inheritance.
- Skill Disparities Among Students in the Mentorship System
In the mentoring system, there’s often an uneven distribution of student progress. While some students make quick advancements, others proceed at a more gradual pace. This discrepancy can eventually create a significant disparity among students. The knowledge system operates without the constraints of time and space, enabling students to access learning materials and acquire skills regardless of their location or the time of day. Even students who struggle with learning can utilize the extended learning time provided by the system to close the gap with their more proficient peers.
- Challenging to Measure
The master-apprentice system is a training method that relies heavily on experience, and it is difficult to quantify its effect through data, which makes it difficult to evaluate the growth of students and the teaching level of masters. Systematization can prove the effectiveness of learning through online assessment or other verification methods.
- Unstable teaching quality
The effectiveness of teaching within a mentorship system often hinges on the mentor’s level of proficiency and experience. In cases where the mentor lacks adequate proficiency and experience, it can lead to fluctuations in the quality of instruction.
- Hold back a trick or two
“Masters often exhibit the habit of reserving a technique, but by digitizing knowledge and systematically embedding it within a framework, this can significantly reduce the occurrence of such issues.”
1-3. Assisting Sales and Service Technicians in Resolving Customer Issues
In the machinery equipment industry, post-sales service personnel are typically seasoned technicians who possess years of accumulated work or maintenance experience. This experience is essential for providing systematic or comprehensive solutions to mechanical problems that customers encounter. However, companies equipped with a comprehensive technical knowledge base system can enable even less experienced technicians to achieve the following benefits through system-based learning or knowledge base queries.”
- Gaining insights into the earlier generation machine models.
- Clearing up or reducing the range of problems.
- Proactive maintenance or checks.
1-4. Minimize the loss of knowledge caused by staff turnover
The employee turnover rate in any company cannot be zero.Once an employee leaves, it implies that there might be a slight loss or reduction of knowledge.
However, if the company’s knowledge base is well-established and comprehensive,even when experienced technical staff leave or retire,their technical knowledge is already digitally preserved within the company,thus avoiding significant loss or impact.
2. Aligning with the company's mission and values
You’ve likely come across a story similar to the tale of the three bricklayers. This story has many different versions, but it stems from a true incident.
In 1666, the Great Fire leveled London to the ground. The world’s most famous architect, Christopher Wren, was tasked with the monumental job of rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedral. He greeted the workers engaged in the construction of the cathedral.
He posed the same question to three individuals: ‘What are you doing?’
The first bricklayer responded impatiently, ‘I’m laying bricks.’
The second bricklayer replied smoothly, ‘I’m working on a wall.’
However, when the third bricklayer was asked, ‘What are you doing?’
With a gleam in his eyes and a smile, he answered, ‘I’m contributing to the construction of a Gothic-style cathedral.‘
The job roles of these three workers may be similar, yet the sense of achievement and satisfaction they derive from their work differs significantly.
The first worker feels impatient and fatigued towards their job; the second sees work as a necessary means to support their family, considering it a “must-do” in life; the third approaches work with enthusiasm, possessing an unceasing drive, resulting in a joyful experience while working.
Applying the same principle to the printing or packaging industry, the first type of worker might perceive their role as operating machinery or manufacturing products; the second may view their job as a means to earn money for their family, conscientiously adhering to company standards to efficiently operate machinery and produce items; the third type might consider their role as contributing to the creation of a machine or product that represents national pride and image, thus proposing more efficient assembly and production methods, along with specific suggestions for improving machine performance, product optimization, and effective problem-solving.
Regarding connecting “technical personnel” with the “organizational mission” in the printing and packaging industry, the following methods can effectively establish a connection between the two:
2-1. Sharing Company Honors with Employees
Whether it’s the company’s machinery, equipment, or products receiving domestic or international awards, it’s important to share this information with the entire company. Expressing gratitude and recognition doesn’t necessarily have to involve significant financial rewards. It can be done through means like emails, announcements, thank-you notes, or even award medals, acknowledging the collective effort of all employees and enhancing their sense of presence and value.
2-2. Human-Centered Care
For high-performing employees who suddenly experience a drop in efficiency or productivity, supervisors can proactively inquire about any recent issues and offer suggestions or assistance. For instance, dealing with personal matters like a breakup, family illness, or health conditions. Providing psychological support and flexibility in terms of leave arrangements can help employees overcome personal lows or periods of reduced output. After facing challenges together with the company and colleagues, employees are more likely to contribute positively once they regain their normal rhythm.
2-3. Clear Explanation of Reasons or Objectives
At times, technical personnel might not resist changes in work content, processes, or procedures but rather lack understanding of the underlying reasons or objectives. Explaining these factors can effectively drive and enhance execution efficiency. For instance, if the company requests technical staff to work overtime during a normally slow month to catch up on production, clarifying the reasons and objectives is akin to a coach having athletes formally announce their practice goals for an upcoming intercollegiate competition. Detailed planning and explanations about the competition schedule, expected rankings, weekly practice goals, and duration provide athletes with a clear target and an understanding of the gap to be bridged. This enhanced clarity significantly elevates overall dedication, enthusiasm, and motivation.
3. Providing Diverse Learning Opportunities
For today’s new generation, Gen Z, considerations around salary and promotion expectations have evolved. They prioritize whether a company offers a diverse range of learning opportunities to aid in their personal growth. In the context of our printing and packaging industry, the following introduction of various educational training types and media formats is aimed at helping the company expand its range of diverse educational programs to facilitate employee development.
3-1. Types of Educational Training
3-1-1. New Employee Orientation and Training
Typically involves introducing new hires to the company’s organizational structure, workflow, and rules and regulations, helping them quickly adapt to the company culture, job content, and processes, while acquiring necessary skills and knowledge, enabling them to become familiar with the company’s organization and the complete scope of their department.
3-1-2. On-the-Job Training (OJT)
Enhancing employees’ professional capabilities and achieving work objectives through various forms of learning activities, on-the-job education tends to focus more on “professional knowledge and awareness” specific to relevant job roles. For example, at SBL, technicians responsible for assembling different machine types like Die Cutting, Folder Gluer, and Hot Stamping machine, would learn about the operational principles of various machine types, along with specific proprietary terms, technical specifications, and more.
3-1-3. On-Site Training
Similar to on-the-job training, on-site training also aims to enhance employees’ professional capabilities and achieve goals, with a stronger emphasis on technical training. This may include obtaining new qualifications or certifications. At SBL, employees are provided opportunities to acquire relevant certifications or attend training sessions at the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for areas like design, mechanics, or electrical control.
3-1-4. Development Training
Also known as managerial education, this is primarily designed to train potentially high-potential employees for internal promotions within the company. After undergoing training in areas such as professional knowledge, leadership, communication skills, and business skills, employees can demonstrate corresponding and feasible handling abilities for leadership, management, and crisis situations.
3-1-5. In-House Instructor Training
At SBL, periodic in-house coaching sessions are conducted, such as introducing new model releases. Project development engineers and assembly technicians collaborate to internally explain the features, assembly, and operation differences of new models. This approach not only familiarizes technical staff, sales personnel, and managers from different teams with new product information and technical specifications but also enhances the ability of technical talents to communicate internal knowledge.
3-2. Forms of Educational Training Media
3-2-1. Text and Tables
Company codes of conduct, employment contracts, company product specifications, technical specifications, and information are often presented using textual content and tables, which suffice to meet the needs of most individuals.
As computer storage costs have decreased and multimedia information has become more prevalent, images play a significant role in presenting information. Product photos, 2D and 3D images of products or machines, engineering drawings, exploded diagrams of assembly parts, and similar visual forms help employees understand and clarify product information context.
In many cases, textual content, tables, and images might not fully present or document specific information or technical details, such as assembly procedures for a particular product set or step-by-step component replacement. Videos are often more effective for understanding, learning, and recording such information and technical details.
- Identifying a machine type and specific part based on a part number.
- Reviewing previous design changes, timelines, and reasons behind changes (restricted to authorized personnel in design, production management, and customer service departments)
- Accessing all technical specification information for a specific machine or finding all machines that meet a certain technical specification.
- Addressing issues, like a Die Cutting machine’s paper feeding problem, understanding potential causes, and outlining steps to troubleshoot the problem.