Training the Untrained

A rare and challenging opportunity with a promotion was given to me to organize the Materials Department. I have to give a little background on this. The strategic business unit (SBU) of an MNC was manufacturing Water Well and Diamond Core drills, and their spare parts. In addition the company was also undertaking erection and commissioning. Such type of machinery was also manufactured and sold to government departments by small and medium scale industries at a cheaper rate. For the big MNC this was not viable. Their switchgear was in demand. The MNC ultimately sold the Drilling equipment machinery to a medium scale unit and started manufacturing switchgear. There was deployment of employees and I was among the very few to be retained at the same SBU and given this challenging opportunity of organizing Materials Department.

The deployment distributed employees even without past experience and it was the responsibility of the department leader to train the untrained and it was on the job training and the HR was not involved. I had 3 such people in Purchase. Before deliberating on training of the three I was responsible for Source Development, Procurement, Receipt Stores and Finished goods Stores.

Both the stores had experienced supervisors but purchase personnel had to be trained. I have taken up the task of Source Development.

Even then I had to give more time to Purchase personnel as purchase was an activity going along with production. All the 3 had to be trained simultaneously irrespective of their qualifications and position. I distributed the work between the three. The first a management trainee recently confirmed was also a qualified Mechanical Engineer. He was given the task (of course under my guidance) preparation of purchase order, vendor development, vendor guidance, vendor or supplier follow up and perhaps getting the vendor supplies inspected and taking action appropriately on quality acceptance or rejection.

For a short while I was accompanying him to suppliers and also helping him at the office in paper work. The paper work predominantly consisted of preparation of purchase order, calculation of rates for components, comparative statements and vendor performance. Maintaining inventory control, Economic Order Quantity, keeping supplies as per delivery schedule were also part of the Purchase Engineer’s responsibility. He was trained for these also and ultimately put into the groove.

In switchgear there were plastic components also, made in-house because they had to with stand electrical surges and therefore they were molded to electrical grade. The volume of the plastic components was substantial and for doing deflashing the plastic items were sent nearby. In fact some unemployed youths were roped in and something like a cottage industry was started by them for deflashing. There were 3 such cottage industries. But the material (plastic) after processing had to come every day. Later on the suppliers were also told to supply the plastic components in small sub-assemblies as shown to them. This work was assigned to another employee who was not an engineer but a science graduate. The accounting for materials sent and received was done by stores and the purchase rep or assistant was responsible for schedules. I had to train him on this aspect as during deployment he was put in purchase. The work he was doing was termed as ‘off loading’.

The third team member in purchase was earlier a skilled worker and had done some certification course (technical) he was promoted to the post of Technical Assistant and during deployment ultimately landed in purchasing. He had to be provided with a suitable task so with the help of an experienced person at Central Purchase he was trained for 2 months in cash purchasing and different markets in Mumbai were made familiar to him. In addition he was given the responsibility of placing Purchase Orders for non-production components and items. For example he had to place orders for items like organic manure, Red Garden soil, liquid soap and items pertaining to Estate Maintenance.

The deployment process and promotion (like I was given) involved training team members by the Team Leader or Department Head. This means the immediate boss must be conversant with all micro functions of his functional area and train the untrained junior colleagues. In fact this was also a challenge to the Head and the management was not keen on any change in the policy.