Training boosts manufacturing productivity, engagement and safety at PPG


05 October 2015

A long-term investment in building competitive manufacturing skills, supported by a culture change programme which rewards productivity and innovation, is helping Auckland-based industrial coatings manufacturer PPG New Zealand save thousands of dollars and lift employee engagement, safety and environmental performance. 

“In the past three years PPG New Zealand employees have completed around 200 competitive manufacturing qualifications, from level 2 to the level 5 diploma – and we’re seeing results across our KPIs,” says Lean Manager William Bratton who designed the training with industry training organisation Competenz.

“Productivity’s up, employee engagement’s up and we’re closing in on a world first in innovation. The competitive manufacturing training our employees have done has played a big part in these results.”

Since PPG introduced the training in 2012, the company has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from its bottom line. Productivity, measured as litres of coating produced per person hour, has risen 20%. Cycle times for powder manufacturing and paint are down 14% and 10% respectively.

Training and resulting successes like these, coupled with productivity bonuses and an employee recognition programme, have seen employee engagement rise over 20 points to the highest level in PPG’s Asia Pacific division. The housekeeping disciplines competitive manufacturing fosters have contributed to the company’s strong environmental and safety performance, helping it win two global awards.

William says competitive manufacturing is a mind-set.

“The training’s encouraged our people to think about how they work every day and to ask the right questions. Many of the changes we’ve made are quite simple. But until people started thinking about what they could do to improve, these changes just didn’t happen.”

Introducing stands to up-end nearly empty drums of resin is an example of a ‘simple saving’. This move has helped PPG squeeze another few litres from each drum, saving over $15,000 a year. There are many ideas like these coming through the company’s employee suggestion scheme, the Opportunity for Improvement (OFI) process, and being assessed by the Lean Steering Committee

PPG’s competitive manufacturing journey started with a simple goal: to be more competitive – by investing in its people.

“We knew training was key and that we needed to train our whole workforce, not just a few people,” says William.

The commitment to building skills on-the-job started at the top. “We all signed up for training, including Pat Cannon who heads the Australia New Zealand business.”

The right support was crucial to getting the best from the training.

“Every team had a coach – someone they were accountable to and who they could approach with questions,” says William. “Then we gave everyone a couple of hours a week, on pay, to build their skills.”

PPG has a diverse workforce, and English is a second language for many employees.

“We assessed everyone’s literacy and numeracy skills at the start of the training. Then we put support in place, like help with written assignments. We wanted everyone to be part of this journey.”

 For many employees, this training is the first time they have undertaken formal education for many years, and an opportunity that is encouraging them to continue to build their skills.

 PPG New Zealand is part of a global company that produces industrial, protective, refinish, architectural and marine coatings. PPG coatings cover buildings, cars and factories the length of the country.

 Caption: Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Hon Steven Joyce, at PPG's September graduation 

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