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Thomas R. Cutler

Quality Insider

Lean Human Resources

High-quality hiring practices

Published: Monday, January 29, 2007 - 23:00

The hiring practices of manufacturing companies have become increasingly lean. The old processes of advertising, screening, interviewing, hiring and training are riddled with waste; it’s both too expensive and extremely time-consuming. The hiring shift to staffing companies has become increasingly cost-effective and an efficient, lean shortcut for manufacturers to acquire the right people with the right skills at the right price. Many executives are examining their hiring practices, training practices and employee retention rates as their enterprisewide lean initiatives land at the door of the human resources (HR) department. The plant floor, back office and most other aspects of the company have been evaluated for elimination of waste, but HR hasn’t.The rationale for this hiring process shift isn’t the same throughout all industrial sectors, nor is the quality of each placement organization the same. Generic placement organizations that can place a warm body in a position at the last minute often prove more costly and wasteful than the staffing organizations that recognize the specific personnel requirements and nuances of an industry.

Automotive industry placement
Kia, BMW, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and Honda have manufacturing plants in the United States, which makes distribution easier and more cost-effective than shipping their product to the United States, and there’s a perception that certain geographic regions provide particularly able and affordable workforces, including Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama.

The supply chain that supports the automotive industry affects key industries in the tiered supplier system, including:
• Machining
• Sheet metal
• Electronics
• Plastics
• Rubber

ProLogistix and ResourceMFG are examples of placement organizations that represent this sector geographically and with segmentation expertise. Many other placement firms are too generic, according to leading automotive companies and suppliers in the supply chain.

Aeronautic placement
“There is great growth in the personal jet manufacturing sector,” says Julie Maydew, vice president of ResourceMFG, who is finding great demand for placing highly trained technicians within the sector.

There’s a complex supply chain serving the aeronautics sector similar to the one in the automotive industry. It’s a niche market ranging from personal jet manufacturers to helicopter and jet engine manufacturers. Due to stringent Federal Aviation Administration regulations, assembly remains in the United States. There are high levels of manufacturing activity in Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; Dallas, Texas; and Wichita, Kansas.

Food industry placement
From spinach to Olive Garden to Taco Bell, frequent news of bacteria in food has forced a level of quality assurance in the food production industry that is unmatched. Bad food can kill people, so quality hiring must be precise. Food production, quality and distribution produce a strong demand for maintenance technicians. The amount of regionally produced food is growing exponentially, and sophisticated, trained personnel are critical as the demand for organic and fresh foods increases. The associated production costs for freshness are found in transportation and quality assurance personnel. With Food and Drug Administration oversight; compliance with the Bioterrorism Act, which requires lot traceability; and the new ISO 22000 registration constraint, the demand for top-level executives, mid-management operations supervisors, and second- and third-shift managers is growing dramatically. Each of these functions will remain in the United States, and the accurate prequalification of competent personnel can be a matter of life or death.

The lean way to hire a placement firm
To determine the efficiencey and efficacy of outsourcing your hiring, ask a placement firm these questions:

• What’s the tenure and knowledge of your staff?
• What’s your hiring process for field employees?
• Are you compliant with state and federal laws?
• What are your recruitment practices?
• Are your values and culture congruent?
• What are your competitive differentiators?
• Can you provide industry references?

John Johnston used RMFG in his previous job with Western Geophysical Inc.’s manufacturing services division. “By working with a specialist in the manufacturing field, major obstacles are eliminated or significantly reduced,” notes Johnston, now RMFG vice president of operations. “Experienced placement firms understand the environment, processes and technical requirements, as well as the quality considerations. The utilization of their services decreases the ramp-up time, due to the decrease in orientation time required.”

When a staffing company places people in unfamiliar environments, the time to learn the expectations of the industry and the company’s expectations, skills or experience requirements complicates the recruiting process. With a specialist, many of the delaying factors are eliminated because it’s already recruiting in the right places for similar positions, eliminating starting from scratch.

Generalist organizations often claim to specialize in manufacturing. Johnston encourages a prospective client to visit placement firms’ Web sites and look carefully at the open positions. Often there are many positions unrelated to manufacturing on their sites. Are they truly industry specialists?

In my review of dozens of placement firms claiming a manufacturing specialty, most were recruiting for carpenters, plumbers, journeyman electricians, construction, bookkeepers, file clerks and myriad skills and positions that weren’t related to manufacturing companies.

The days of using expensive classified advertising, sifting through hundreds of resumes, interviewing dozens of individuals, and training a half dozen new hires who depart after six months to make $2 more per hour from a competitor across the street typify the antithesis of the lean process. While some organizations attempt to rectify these old techniques gradually from the inside, many more are streamlining the hiring process by using placement firms with the screening techniques to deliver in short order a candidate who can immediately achieve high levels of productivity. Lean hiring practices and manufacturing and logistics staffing firms are likely to see significant growth throughout 2007.


About The Author

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

Thomas R. Cutler

Thomas R. Cutler is the President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler Inc., celebrating its 21st year. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 8000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 1,000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. More than 4,500 industry leaders follow Cutler on Twitter daily at @ThomasRCutler. Contact Cutler at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com.