Non-Ferrous Founders’ Society and THORS eLearning Solutions Announce the Launch of NFFS Academy

NFFS Online Foundry Training Academy

Sturgis, Michigan— February 23, 2021 — The Non-Ferrous Founders’ Society (NFFS), a not-for-profit trade association representing the non-ferrous metal casting industry, and THORS eLearning Solutions, a designer of highly acclaimed online manufacturing courses, are pleased to announce the launch of the new NFFS Academy, an online e-learning portal developed to provide cutting edge technical training programs to foundry industry employers and their workforce.

The NFFS Academy provides immediate access to more than 120+ technical courses that were created by THORS on manufacturing topics such as Materials, Engineering Drawings, Quality, Industrial Safety, Industry 4.0, Sales, Manufacturing Processes, and Manufactured Products. These courses were developed with the cooperation of subject matter experts from world-class manufacturing companies and insights from renowned individuals across various industry domains. The courses have been developed utilizing robust instructional design practices – they are visually appealing to the modern learner and highly interactive to promote learner engagement. A full directory of courses in the NFFS Academy is available for NFFS members. For non-members, a full directory of courses can be viewed in the THORS Academy.

In addition to the release of the NFFS Academy, THORS eLearning Solutions and The University of Akron (Ohio, USA) have partnered to offer Certificate of Completion programs in multiple manufacturing disciplines such as mobility, mechanical power transmission, metal castings, forging, engineering drawings, and quality. The University of Akron (UA) has been a longtime leader in preparing individuals for careers in manufacturing with degree programs in Automated and Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Mechanical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering Technology.

NFFS provided their expertise to create the “Green Sand Molding for Aluminum Foundries” UA Certificate of Completion Program. THORS will have this program available in March of 2021. Additional UA Certificate of Completion programs will be released periodically for purchase from the THORS Catalog.  

“Employers have come to depend upon external educational programs to ensure their workforce are properly trained, and to reduce the amount of time required to bring new employees up to speed,” said Jerrod Weaver, NFFS Executive Director. “The NFFS Academy does both in one world-class educational platform, providing students with the opportunity to complete the self-paced training programs online without the need for travel or scheduled classes. Our Society is very excited about the release of the new NFFS Academy, and about our partnership with THORS and the University of Akron to provide foundry specific training programs and certificate courses to the foundry industry.”

“This collaboration has democratized manufacturing education; it empowers individuals, across the globe, to obtain a certificate from a renowned university in the United States,” said Senthil Kumar, founder of THORS eLearning Solutions, and UA graduate. “The benefits of this program are threefold—makes manufacturing knowledge accessible to new entrants into industry, supplements current education to those enrolled in the University, and contributes to the professional development of experienced employees.”

“These programs speed up the learning curve for new employees and set a solid foundation for existing team members,” adds Mr. Kumar.

“This partnership just makes good sense for our students and our manufacturing community,” said Craig Menzemer, dean of the College of Engineering and Polymer Science at UA. “Highly specialized technical skills continue to be in demand by employers. Individuals working in manufacturing in the region or around the world will be able to enhance their skills and further their careers without even leaving home.”   

To learn more about the NFFS Academy and its Certificate of Completion programs, visit

About THORS eLearning Solutions

THORS eLearning Solutions headquartered in Akron, Ohio, is an online marketplace that provides a complete suite of learning and development solutions for the manufacturing industry—certificate programs, standard courses, micro learning courses, and custom courses. THORS eLearning Solutions brings together the best minds across many industries and is continually expanding its course offerings.

About The University of Akron

The University of Akron is the region’s most influential urban public research university, contributing to the resurgence of the local economy, providing a workforce highly trained in diverse disciplines, and known for an innovative approach to higher education. The University offers in-demand associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate and law degree programs. A longtime leader in preparing individuals for careers in industry, UA is a known provider of world-class engineering and engineering technology degree programs.

About Non-Ferrous Founders’ Society

Established in 1943, the Non-Ferrous Founders’ Society (NFFS) is a 501(c)(6) trade association serving non-ferrous foundries, die casters, ingot manufacturers, and industry suppliers. NFFS provides a wide variety of membership benefits and services, including written regulatory compliance programs, bi-monthly newsletters, foundry specific safety training programs, economic reports, industry advocacy and representation, members-only affinity programs, technical training, and customer market development activities.


The Ten Commandments of Foundry Safety

Workplace accidents, fatal and tragic, make headlines and fade away from our collective consciousness after their shelf-life in the news cycle; the less-grievous ones rarely gain media attention, nevertheless, they are commonplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace accidents as, “an unplanned event that results in personal injury or property damage.” Industrial disasters are workplace accidents that involve multiple fatalities and leave a negative imprint on society—environmentally and epidemiologically—in its aftermath. The common thread connecting these workplace accidents and industrial disasters: freak incidents that often stem from overlooking safety protocols.

In the manufacturing sector, the risk of workplace accidents is relatively high in foundries. According to a report published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2019, the incidence rate of nonfatal injuries is 6.4 for every one-hundred full-time foundry workers; in this cohort, the incidence rate is 9.7% in steel foundries—the highest for metal casting foundries.  A foundry environment presents with multiple hazards on the worksite: physical, chemical, electrical, and mechanical. Workplace accidents in foundries cause illnesses, injuries, and sometimes fatalities. Other implications of workplace accidents are job restrictions and lost production time. This post covers some of the cardinal rules of foundry safety.

I. Wear Your Gear

Personal protective equipment (PPE) are designed to minimize the risk of exposure to workplace hazards. These protective gear come in various forms and offer head-to-toe protection. Knowledge of selection and maintenance of PPE is essential to reap its benefits.

Head-to-Toe Protection
II. Breathe Safely

The trio of adversaries—dust, fumes, and gases—are responsible for occupational respiratory disorders. Sand casting and fettling, or cleaning room operations, are major contributors of dust in the foundry. Prolonged exposure to dust in sand casting foundries can cause silicosis. Furnaces emit fumes and gases as a byproduct of melting operations. Properly installed dust collection systems and ventilation systems are the first line of defense for respiratory safety. Foundry personnel may be required to wear a mask or specialized respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NOISH) as prescribed by their employers. To maximize protection, masks and respirators must be worn after a fitting test.

III. Inspect Before Use 

Timely inspection of foundry machinery is critical for worker safety. Any defect or failure in equipment during a melt or pour can be extremely dangerous.  Prior to use, operators must check the condition of equipment, furnace walls, fuel lines, burners, and pouring equipment.

IV. Know Your Melt

Foundry personnel should familiarize themselves with the chemicals and metals being handled. The common chemicals include abrasive cleaning chemicals, alloying elements, binders, and resins. Chemical storage containers are generally labeled in accordance with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard Pictogram, and operators must always read labels prior to handling the chemicals. Operators must have a copy of the chemical Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for reference.

V. Keep Out Moisture

Moisture and molten metal are a lethal combination. Wet charge material is the leading cause of furnace explosion in foundries. Upon contact with the molten metal, moisture in the charge material changes to steam and expands up to 1600 times, causing explosions. Operators must ensure that the raw materials and tools are free of moisture.

VI. Adopt Good Housekeeping Practices

Good housekeeping practices are crucial for preventing workplace injuries resulting from trips and falls. Operators must diligently follow all housekeeping rules and keep the foundry floor clear of wires and other trip hazards.

VII. Be Vigilant

Vigilance is vital in detecting accidents early on and helps in preventing serious damage to personnel and property. Foundry personnel must always be wary of their surroundings. Coworkers and supervisors must be alerted if something is suspicious. For example, uncommon odor could indicate a gas leak or a metal leak.

VIII. Administer First Aid

Accidents happen despite the best planning, precautions, and care. Personnel must be equipped to access and administer basic first aid before help arrives. All personnel must know the locations of showers, water stations, fire extinguishers, emergency access doors, and phones situated in the facility. Personnel must follow protocol for reporting injury to a supervisor to avoid chaotic communication.

IX. Follow Communicable Disease Plan

Emerging viral infections pose a safety hazard in all workplaces. Be informed of the company’s injury and illness protection program safety plan. The plan contains guidelines for the responsibilities of all the stakeholders, incident reporting protocols, assessment methods, and corrective measures to be implemented. Employees must follow the public health measures in place.

X. Train to Foster Safety

Safety is a priority and a responsibility of all. Effective communication and timely training practices ensure the good health and safety of all employees.  Foundry personnel must be trained on their company’s evacuation plan and emergency response plans. These plans must focus on specific situations, such as measures to contain a spill due to flask failure, a cracked crucible, or a failure in the pouring hardware.

The Ten Commandements

Final Thoughts

Workplace accidents are often a product of negligence and unsafe practices. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” investing in training solutions that equip employees to proactively follow safety practices and identify possible hazards is the best strategy for risk mitigation.

Fulfilling the first nine commandments rests on the final commandment—training. Safety training is often bland and boring. THORS eLearning Solutions has been a gamechanger in industrial safety training; our courses are content rich, highly engaging, and visually stunning. Our custom team will work with you to customize your training program. Our assessment tool can be tailored to meet your compliance needs. Experience the power of our training solutions that promote a “safety first” workplace culture.

Get in touch with our team:


Industry Vetted Remote Learning Solutions for Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Students.

With the rapidly changing remote learning requirements, more educational institutes are looking for cost-effective options for quality online resources to replace textbooks, enhance lectures, and provide learning tools that appeal to the “YouTube” generation.

“While most engineering courses are calculation- or design-intensive, introductory manufacturing courses tend to be primarily information-driven. Covering this content through traditional lecturing often fails to fully engage student interest, motivation, and learning potential.”

Josh Gargac – Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Mount Union.

THORS eLearning Solutions meets these challenges by providing:

  • Interactive, cloud-based learning solutions for manufacturing industry employees and students.
  • Industry-specific content that explains different manufacturing processes and materials with a workflow that mirrors real manufacturing methods.
  • Courses that are developed by combining experiential industry knowledge with theoretical insight and are presented in a user-friendly format complete with graphics, animations, and interactives.

Our courses are recognized and valued by our customers, including fortune 500 companies such as General Motors, Ford Motor Company, FCA, Mercedes Benz, Caterpillar Inc., Cummins, Navistar, Rolls Royce, as well as, other top companies and educational institutions worldwide.

We have found that many professors at various institutions are addressing the following challenges with success using THORS Solutions:

Reducing the cost of textbooks:

THORS courses are extremely complementary to the courses taught in the universities and can provide a cost-effective alternative to costly textbooks.

“It certainly makes it easier to teach manufacturing science, it’s impossible to be an expert in every type of manufacturing. The best part about THORS is you get content from vetted industry experts in a broad area of subjects including castings, metal forming and cutting, forging, and polymer work.”

Josh Gargac – Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Mount Union.

Enhancing Lectures:

When THORS assignments are giving before a lecture, students are prepared with a baseline comprehension of terminology, understanding, and application of various manufacturing processes and products.

“I would tell my colleagues that THORS is a great enhancement of the material they’re already covering. And with THORS, students are able to see the products and the processes behind them. I would highly recommend THORS to anybody who is looking for materials that are of high quality on these topics.  From a technical standpoint, they are excellent and provide instruction to the students that I don’t have time to create. The animations are excellent, and onboarding exercises are integrated into the modules as you go.  There is just no way you can create it yourself. I want to give the students an almost hands-on experience, even in an online environment, and it is great we can now do that with THORS.  I think the students really appreciate that.”

Michael Robinson – Manufacturing & STEM Assistant Professor, Butler County Community College.

Increasing Lab Time (Flipping the classroom):

THORS allows individuals to learn manufacturing fundamentals in self-paced online assignment providing for more interactive lectures and increased time for application of the subject matter

“THORS allowed for a flipped classroom where the content was delivered to the students outside the classroom, scheduled class meetings could be spent on additional hands-on activities. This allowed four weeks of lecture to be replaced with four fabrication lab exercises.”

Josh Gargac – Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Mount Union

Bring Manufacturing Processes to Life:

The manufacturing process is difficult at best to describe in a 2D manner. Many logistical issues also prevent the availability of in-person plant tours and even in those cases much of what is viewed in not easily explained. With the use of THORS crossed sectioned animations, videos, and interactives, in many cases, the learner can gain a better understanding of the process than they would standing in front of a machine.

“For me, it brings to my students real-world examples of the types of training that takes place with well done and realistic videos and/or simulations with culminates in learning and then a THORS certificate. It just complements the way students like to learn today.”

Rob Speckert – Professor Department of Engineering Technology, Miami University

Using Competency-Based Embedded Preexisting Tests and Quizzes:

Finding time to locate meaningful related content and then creating the associated worksheets, tests and quizzes can be very difficult and time-consuming.

“THORS has competency-based examinations, pretests and post examinations included within each course. As an instructor, it saves me considerable time.  Not that I mind giving tests, but it’s superior because its integrated with the material and comes up at the right time within the material.  It really makes it easy for the students to learn. That is a really big plus for me. It’s not just a bunch of videos – it has competency-based activity going on throughout it which I think is a real plus.”

Michael Robinson – Manufacturing & STEM Assistant Professor, Butler County Community College.

Finding High Quality, In-depth Information that is Used and Recognized in Industry:

Students receive a THORS certificate upon completing each course. These certificates are valued by our customers worldwide.

“First, I think THORS has credibility. I promote it before I have my students take the THORS courses and explain how THORS came about and how it serves industry and list some of the major THORS clients, like GM, to my students. I let them know this is the type of learning they use an industry. I like how things flow in each module the details in the industry-based content that it presents.”

Rob Speckert – Professor Department of Engineering Technology, Miami University

Planning for the Further Impact of COVID-19 and Remote Teaching Strategies:

With today’s everchanging environment educators need to develop plans for either distance learning, face to face learning or some mixture of both.

“Thank God we had THORS in the spring when we had to switch quickly over to remote instruction.  There’s no way you can develop that quality of material in such a short amount of time. You have to have quality material available and ready to go when remote learning is mandated. It has to be “in the can” and ready to deploy.  The THORS program meets that challenge well.

When it comes to remote instruction, students don’t want to sit there and just read. They like the interaction and that’s what I like about THORS.  It’s not a replacement for face-to-face instruction, but it’s an enhancement beyond having students just reading PowerPoint slides or watching videos.”

Michael Robinson – Manufacturing & STEM Assistant Professor, Butler County Community College

We are interested in speaking with you! See how THORS can aid with your company or learning institution in meeting your future training needs.


Essential Quality Terms Used in 7QC Tools

The 7QC tools are statistical tools that help individuals, organizations, and businesses resolve quality issues for products and processes. To utilize the 7QC tools it is important to understand the following essential quality terms:

You can read our other blog 7QC: An Introduction to the Seven Basic Tools of Quality here.

80/20 Rule: The 80/20 Rule, also called the “Pareto Principle,” states that 80% of the problems arise from 20% of the sources.

Average: The average, or mean, of a set of sample data is calculated as the sum of the data points divided by the total number of data points.

Central Issue: The problem that needs to be solved.

Control Limits: Control limits are defined as the values that represent the maximum and minimum amount of variation that the averages of data points within subgroups of a process can exhibit. When the subgroups exist beyond the control limits or exhibit specific patterns or trends, then the process is said to be “out-of-control.”

Correlation: Correlation is defined as the level of dependency or association between two variables. Most commonly, linear relationships are evaluated using the Pearson’s correlation coefficient, which is a calculated statistical value.

Cumulative Percentage: The cumulative percentage is the running total of each factor summing to 100%.

Dependent Variable: A dependent variable is the variable, or factor, that changes when other variables change. Outputs from a process, or product characteristics, are typically dependent variables.

Five W’s: The phrase “Five W’s” is short form for asking the Who, What, When, Where, and Why questions.

Frequency Distribution: Frequency distribution shows the variation in a given set of data when the data are tallied into groups.

Independent Variable: An independent variable is the variable, or factor, that does not change when other variables change. Inputs to a process, or process characteristics, are typically independent variables.

Intervals: Intervals are the sub-groups into which data are classified in order to construct a histogram. Intervals are always mutually exclusive, meaning the data points that equal the upper limit of an interval can only exist in that interval and not in the next interval.

Major Categories: The major groupings under which possible causes may be sorted to solve the central issue.

Mode: Mode is the value or number that appears the most often in a set of numbers or data.

Normal distribution: Statistically, a normal distribution is represented in a histogram when a smooth, symmetric curve can be generated from the bars where the mean, or average, is the center of the curve and the rest of it tails off to near zero on either side. Normal distributions are a bell-shaped curve.

Paired Data: When two variables are collected jointly such that for each value of the independent variable (x), a corresponding value for the dependent variable (y) is generated, then the data point (x,y) is said to be paired data.

Population: A population is the entire data set under consideration while analyzing data.

Primary Axis: The primary axis is the Y axis on the left side of the graph used to depict the frequencies.

Primary Causes: The principle causes specific to a particular category.

Range: Range is calculated as the difference between the maximum and minimum observed values of a set of sample data.

Sample: A sample is a smaller subgroup of data that is taken from within the population.

Secondary Axis: The secondary axis is the Y axis on the right side of the graph used to depict the cumulative percentages.

Secondary Causes: The causes derived from the primary causes after further brainstorming.

Standard Deviation: Standard deviation is defined as the amount of variation that exists within a sample data set. The Greek letter “sigma,” σ, is used to represent standard deviation.

Stratified Data: When collected data show tendencies of being divided into more than one subgroup, then the data are said to be stratified.

Stratified Sampling: Stratified sampling is the method of collecting and sorting data from a population into smaller logical segments after sampling takes place.

Subgroup: Subgroup is defined as a small collection of data points, typically between 2 and 10 data points, that are compiled together within a short interval of time. The average of the data points within a subgroup is represented as a single dot in the control chart.

Tally Marks: Tally marks are used to determine quantity. Each tally mark represents the value 1, where I = 1. When the amount of tally marks reaches 5, the fifth tally mark strikes across the previous 4 marks to be recorded as a fifth tally, ||||. The tally marks continue as single tallies until the next multiple of 5, the value 10, is to be recorded, |||| ||||. [Put slashes across the 4 tallies here and at the 5 location.]

Tertiary Causes: The causes derived from the secondary causes after further brainstorming.

Variable: A variable is a type of characteristic that can be used to separate/segregate data into groupings that affect a given process or outcome, and it can change according to outside influences like time, place, and standards.

To learn more about these Seven Basic Tools of Quality Control, and to learn how to apply these tools to solving quality problems by viewing examples, check out the online 7QC courses in the THORS Academy Library, brought to you by THORS eLearning Solutions.


The Added Value of Knowing Your Customer’s Personality Style

Maybe you think the value is obvious. If you can speak the same “language” as the person you are talking with, you can build trust and rapport. Trust and rapport help you to be more profitable, right? But there are more advantages to knowing and understanding your customer’s personality style.

Behavioral research suggests that the most effective people are those who understand themselves and develop strategies to meet others’ needs with “communication flexibility.”1

First, understand your own behavioral style.

Have you ever stopped to think about how you act or react in different situations? How does this affect your relationships and how you communicate? It is possible to analyze and measure behavior in order to produce a report of actionable data.

This type of report shows how you respond to:

  • Problems and challenges
  • Differing points of view
  • The pace of the environment
  • Procedures and expectations set by others

When you understand your own behavioral style, you have completed the first step in communicating more effectively with others.

Then, learn strategies to help you meet others’ needs.

When you can communicate effectively, you can help someone address an issue, work through a dilemma, or find a solution to a need. With a new understanding of your own behavioral style, you can learn strategies of working with others more effectively. This starts with identifying the personality styles of the customers you deal with.

For instance, here are four different ways a customer may respond in a conversation. Can you discern what the personality style is for each speaker?

“Send me a breakdown of the pros and cons.”

“You have five minutes. Go.”

“Let me get feedback from my team first.”

“I feel this is a good move, what do you think?”

Not only do the four personality styles have a different way of communicating, but they also have different ways that they would like to be communicated to. Learning these strategies will go a long way in developing relationships.

Now, apply these strategies to improve your “communication flexibility.”

After learning about your customer’s personality style and how to communicate with them more effectively, you can gain the following benefits:

  • Improved Problem Solving. When you understand the customer’s personality, you have a better understanding of how they process information and you can stay one step ahead.
  • More Efficient Listening Skills. Personality styles give insight into what body language is demonstrating, or what word choices are revealing. By knowing personality styles, you can hear more than what your customer is saying.
  • Re-energized Relationships. When personality styles are understood, customers may believe you are more relatable. This rapport can revamp your position in the eyes of the customer as well as the eyes of your company.
  • Lessened Frustration. Because different personality styles can often work at different paces, being familiar with how to identify these traits in others can assist in understanding actions and reactions.
  • Increased Diversification. When you learn how to be authentic and genuine to others with differing personality styles, you can improve perception and produce longevity in relationships. Furthermore, the more people you can interact successfully with, the broader the possibilities of good contacts and future customers.

After taking the course, Understand Customer Personality Styles to Help You Sell More Effectively you will be better equipped for your next conversation with your customer!

1.Target Training International, Ltd. (1984-2020) TTI Success Insights, Communicating with Style


7QCs: An Introduction to the Seven Basic Tools of Quality Control

Quality control. Of course it is important. When producing parts or products, the ability to monitor, troubleshoot, and adjust manufacturing processes is necessary for companies to remain efficient and competitive. If products are to be made consistently to a required standard, the methods of manufacturing must be measurable, adjustable, and repeatable.

In order to achieve these standards, logical, data driven approaches to finding acceptable solutions can be used, such as the 7QC tools, or the Seven Basic Tools of Quality Control. The 7QC tools are statistical tools that help individuals, organizations, and businesses resolve quality issues for products and processes. They are called basic tools because they are suitable for people with little formal training in statistics and because they can be used to solve the vast majority of quality-related issues.

7QC tools include:

Check Sheets

Check sheets are used to collect data in order to understand the qualitative and quantitative variables that can affect a process. When recording data on a check sheet, check marks or tally marks are used to indicate the amount of what is being collected, which helps in understanding the progress, defect patterns, and even causes for defects.

Check Sheets

Control Charts

Control charts are graphs used to represent process performance over time. Subgroups of data points are collected and compiled together within a short interval of time. The average of the data points within a subgroup is represented as a single dot in the control chart. The amount of variation that exists within a sample data set is the standard deviation, which is used to determine the control limits. When the subgroups exist beyond the control limits or exhibit specific patterns or trends, then the process is said to be “out-of-control.”

Control Charts

Fishbone Diagrams

Fishbone diagrams, also referred to as cause and effect diagrams, are a quality control brainstorming tool used to help identify the root cause or causes of an issue by looking at all possible variables.

When using these diagrams, a central issue or focal point, such as a defect or quality problem, is placed at the head of the “fish.” The “bones of the fish” serve as a way to visually organize all possible variables, or causes, that may have caused the central issue, and sort ideas into categories to investigate further.

Fishbone Diagrams


Histograms are a type of bar graph used to represent the frequency distribution, or how often each different value in a set of data occurs. It is created by grouping the data you collect into “cells” or “bins.” The histogram is the most commonly used graph to assess process behavior and demonstrate if the data follow a normal distribution, or bell-shaped curve.


Pareto Charts

Pareto charts are a combination of bar and line graphs that provide a visual representation of how often the various issues affecting a process are occurring. Pareto chart derives its name from the use of the Pareto Principle, which states “80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes.” Using this chart, professionals can decide where to place priority and focus.

Pareto Charts

Scatter Diagrams

Scatter diagrams, also called scatter plots, are graphs used to visually represent the relationship between two variables in order to quickly identify the correlation between them.

This tool is used to determine the type of relationship that exists between the inputs to the process, or process characteristics, and the outputs from a process, or product characteristics.

Scatter Diagrams


Stratification is a method of dividing data into subcategories and classifying data based on group, division, class, or levels that helps in deriving meaningful information to understand an existing problem.


To learn more about these Seven Basic Tools of Quality Control, and to learn how to apply these tools to solving quality problems by viewing examples, check out the online 7QC courses in the THORS Academy Library, brought to you by THORS eLearning Solutions.


Training Perspective: Looking Back to Look Ahead

Companies are constantly reviewing ways to reduce costs and keep positive margins. During times of economic recession, external pressures from competitors as well as internal pressures with shareholders can be mixed with concerns of shrinking revenue and volatile markets. As a result, employee training is commonly an area that receives budget cuts.

Looking back at the Great Recession of 2007-2009, companies can learn some valuable lessons that can be applied to the potential future state of the market. With the growing consensus from the IMF as well as Industry experts such as Harvard Professor of Economics Kenneth Rogoff that the current situation is developing into a global recession.  It may be surprising to find that continuous training is still valuable in today’s uncertain economy.

ROI Value

In 2013, researchers from the University of South Carolina studied 359 companies and the level of training done prior, during, and after the Great Recession. The researchers organized these companies into three groups based on the level of focus on training that they offered to their employees: high, medium, and low levels.

In the prior-recession studies, the researchers found that companies with a high level of focus on training created human capital, which is the knowledge, skills, and value of the workforce. Additionally, when compared to the other two groups, these companies had consistently higher levels of productivity and reduced turnover.

High Level of Focus on Training = Greater Human Capital

During the recession, companies with a high level of focus on training mitigated some of the losses from the recession better than the companies with a medium or low focus on training. 

The study attributed this to the creation of human capital: more efficient and productive workers.

The study in 2013 also looked at the recovery efforts of the companies after the recession. The researchers found that companies who kept their training efforts as a high level of focus during the recession rebounded faster compared to companies with a medium or low focus on training efforts. These high-focus companies returned to at least the pre-recession revenue and at times higher on average by 2009. In comparison, the companies with a low level of focus on training took, on average, two additional years to recover.

High level of Focus on Training = Faster Post-Recession Rebound

The researchers concluded with the study that a high level of focus on training and development might be one of the most valuable tools in recovering after an economic downturn.  

What Training Really Costs

In a recession, employees are concerned about their jobs. The University of South Carolina study agrees with a Deloitte & Touche study on “Employee training in difficult economic times.” When a company makes cuts to its training program, it sends “the message to its employees that it considers their professional development to be unimportant.”  This is an attributing factor to lower employee morale and lower productivity as well as increased turnover.

With the potential of increased turnover due to the cuts in training, the costs associated with replacing those employees needs to be considered when compared to the costs of the training budget. Costs, “including interviewing, hiring, training, reduced productivity, lost opportunity costs, etc.” could amount to the following percentages: 

  • Entry-level employees, 30-50% of their annual salary
  • Mid-level employees, 150% of their annual salary
  • High-level employees, 400% of their annual salary

Training is commonly considered an unnecessary expense during a recession, but research suggests that recovery can occur more rapidly, and the return on investment of training can shine during these times.

Utilizing training through this time, especially on-line learning that focuses on the manufacturing industry, could help to improve your human capital and position your company for success in recovery.

We want to hear from you! Let’s discuss how THORS can be a resource in your training operations.

COVID Featured

Five Plans to Prepare Employees for Returning to Work Post COVID-19

Easing back to a normal work schedule after COVID-19 will take time and strategy. Many different measures must be in place in order to prepare the workforce for new protocols centered around mitigating the after-effects of COVID-19. A response team may be appointed in order to make necessary decisions and changes to company policies, which may include members from legal, human resources, and IT and communications, to name a few.

To ensure and protect the safety of all workers, it is suggested to implement the following five main types of preparation plans.

Step 1 A Contingency Plan for Infectious Disease & Response

A contingency plan for infectious disease and response is a proactive process used to identify and analyze the potential risks that the possible future events may pose and to formulate preventive measures for maintaining the regular operations of an organization.

It is not yet known if the pandemic COVID-19 will be an endemic disease to regularly combat in the future. Regardless, suggested best practices are to implement measures based on past experiences with other communicable diseases, such as SARS and MERS.

When developing a contingency plan, first, the identified potential risks are listed, and then appropriate preventive actions to mitigate them are determined and implemented based on the impact of the potential risk.

By ensuring safety of personnel and infrastructure, an organization will be able to avoid adversities and function efficiently without any interruptions.

Contingency plans for each manufacturing or service industry will be unique depending on their geographical location, size, weather conditions, and accessibility. In the development of a company’s specific contingency plans, regularly consult organization’s websites for additional resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

2) Infection Control Measures

Creating a plan for infection control begins with working with local and state health departments in order to follow current and appropriate guidelines and protocols. Establish hygiene measures which assist in illness prevention. Remind employees also about the use of, and where to obtain, necessary supplies such as hand sanitizer, tissues, and cleaning products.

Some of these directives could include the following:

  • Reminding about cough and sneeze etiquette
  • Hand washing and hand sanitizing
  • Increasing distance between people to at least 6 feet
  • Staggering shifts or schedules
  • Creating a remote working or delivery program
  • Encouraging appropriate additional PPE
  • Increasing cleaning measures

When a plan is determined, the reliable and up-to-date guidelines for employees to follow should be communicated and posted in highly visible areas.

3) Additional Policies

Policies and procedures for illness reporting during COVID-19 must be in place. Every company should evaluate their current procedures to incorporate specific rules pertaining to the coronavirus situation. These could involve procedures such as a flowchart on how each level of illness is handled, or policies in place for employees to know that their job is still secure if they need to call off due to illness. The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, provides additional guidelines about the amount of information that should be provided to the employer, as well as the rights of the employee’s health privacy as it could be related to a disability.

According to Mayer Brown in the March 09, 2020 article, Coronavirus: 10 Steps US Employers Should Take to Maintain a Safe Workplace in the Face of a Public Health Emergency, employers should also “be mindful of the interplay between sick leave laws and policies, the FMLA, ADA, HIPAA and Workers’ Compensation.”

Some of the suggested actions include policies and guidelines for:

  • Teleworking and video conferencing
  • Length of time for staying at home until symptom free
  • Flexible, non-punitive leave to care for sick family members

More information can be found in the Ohio Department of Health’s Amended Director’s Stay at Home Order, or review similar information from your state or province.

4) Training for New Policies

A program and schedule for training employees on new guidelines should be in place. Many new rules could be overwhelming and confusing, and it may be required to determine whether all employees received the correct information.

Training should be instituted on topics such as:

  • COVID-19 exposure, who is at risk and how – what interactions or tasks increase exposure
  • Safe distancing practices both at the workplace, and outside the workplace
  • What to do in case of illness, and questions and answers regarding individual concerns
  • New policies for PPE, cleaning surfaces, and other topics

Training should be implemented in a manner that maintains safe distancing, such as with:

  • Live or Recorded Video conferencing, using tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams
  • On-Line Training Courses, such as THORS eLearning Solutions COVID-19 Video and Assessment

For best assurance of the receipt of the training, it is recommended that the training include some or all of the following opportunities:

  • Access to someone to ask questions and receive answers
  • Self-assessment prior to and after the training, to determine comprehension
  • Access to the training remotely, at any time of the day, and as many times as necessary for understanding
5) Assess & Track Employee's Compliance

It may be necessary to assess and track the employee’s compliance within the company. This can involve creating a compliancy assessment and implementing record keeping and tracking to ascertain whether employees have understood the new measures to follow.

An assessment tool, such as MAGNI, would be useful in order to remove the uncertainty from compliancy analysis. With MAGNI, an organization can customize their own compliancy solution by creating their own assessment with questions that reflect the standards the employees must follow.

Here’s how MAGNI works:

1- Each company determines the subject matter they wish to inform or train their own workforce on.

2- The company then follows the instructions in MAGNI’s assessment tool to create the questions for their assessment. These questions should reflect the points that are most important for the employees to know, and for the company to know if the employees understood.

3- The administrative access allows the company to see who has taken the assessment and what their score was. The tracking of score improvement during re-takes, as well as timely re-assessments to meet compliancy rules can be scheduled.

With this list of the five main plans to prepare employees for returning to work after the COVID-19 order, as well as tools and resources available, THORS eLearning Solutions and MAGNI hope to empower organizations to minimize the impact of the changes due to COVID-19 on businesses and communities, and increase the awareness and safety of everyone.

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Small Businesses: On the Road to Recovery

Update August 4th, 2020

Update: The Paycheck Protection Program has been extended until August 8th.

The Small Business Administration, or SBA, has received additional funding of $300 billion through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act and has restarted processing loan applications from small businesses, after a temporary hiatus. The loans are processed on a first come, first served basis. SBA is also accepting new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program beginning April 27 at 10:30 am EDT. The new interest rate for the Paycheck Protection Program is set at 1%.

Small businesses are emblems of American entrepreneurship, incubators of innovation, and contributors to community identity. Thriving small businesses are the vital signs of a healthy economy.

COVID-19 is sweeping across countries and shaking down well-established economic systems; small businesses have been hit the hardest. Public health measures, such as social distancing, curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus and restrict businesses in our communities. The symptoms of economic distress are manifested as partial and complete shutdown of these business operations.

Funding Opportunities

To offer economic relief to individuals, families, and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government in the United States passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act provides the much-needed economic safety net for small businesses for business continuity. The funds earmarked to support small businesses is $349 billion; these funds are extended as Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. Small businesses can choose from the following financial products offered by the SBA.

The Economic Injury Disaster Advance Loan Program provides a quick respite for borrowers—the funds will be available within 36 hours. Up to $10,000 can be requested as a loan advance through this program.

In addition, there are tax credit programs that small businesses can take advantage of. States and counties have local funding assistance available for small businesses. Corporate firms are also offering grants to small businesses during this time. For example, Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg has announced a $40 million grant from Facebook for small businesses.

Looking Beyond

Though small businesses may be bruised and battered, they will bounce back with greater resiliency. Now is the time for diligent planning and preparation for a new and brighter future as we wait out this pandemic. Ensuring that your workforce is knowledgeable about COVID-19 and how to combat it will be a part of the blueprint for preparation. Today, eLearning is mainstream—consider employee enrichment programs through online learning opportunities. If you are a small business in the manufacturing sector affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, reach out to our team for learning and development opportunities for you and your employees.


Lack of GD&T Knowledge Can Impact Your Bidding Process

Read the first part of our GD&T Blog “3 Factors that Affect Understanding

As a complex standard, geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T) can lead to reading and interpreting errors. Users who do not have the prerequisite print reading knowledge and ability to see in 2D and 3D space will have an increased difficulty in acquiring the necessary GD&T language fluency. As a result, potential disconnects can occur between the design, manufacture, and inspection of parts, all affecting a company’s bottom line.

Engineering drawing illustrating complex datum reference frames.

Engineering drawing illustrating complex datum reference frames.

One critical area in which a lack of GD&T knowledge can be detrimental to an organization is in the bidding process. Ways in which a limited understanding of GD&T can affect cost estimating includes the following:

Underbidding: Individuals involved in cost estimating who do not understand GD&T could potentially underbid as a result of their lack of knowledge. A limited level of GD&T fluency can cause individuals to undervalue the requirements necessary to make the part. As a result, the responsibility is now on the manufacturing team to make sure the part is manufactured correctly within cost, a task they may not be able to execute.

Overbidding: On the other hand, individuals involved in cost estimating who do not understand GD&T could also potentially overbid due to their lack of knowledge. In this situation, their limited language fluency may cause them to panic at the sight of the GD&T-related symbols, making them add cost. This additional cost arises from the belief that GD&T increases the time it takes to manufacture the part. As a result, the company could lose the bid for a product they could have manufactured. If they do win the bid, they may have made it easy on themselves to manufacture the part; however, they still may not realize how GD&T is going to help make the part more profitable.

In the bidding process, both underbidding and overbidding have their own ramifications. Whether a bid is won but undervalued or lost where there could have been profit, both realities affect a company’s bottom line profitability. It is in these crucial situations where having a full comprehension of GD&T helps organizations and individuals have the greatest potential for success.

Kavita Krishnamurthy is an ASQ certified Six Sigma Black Belt with over 15 years of experience in the field of process improvement, manufacturing engineering, and quality management in the automotive and gear industries. She is also the subject matter expert of our GD&T Fundamentals course.