Jeff Martin, Advanced Supplier Quality Manager at Allison Transmission in Indianapolis, IN, provided the following review of THORS manufacturing courses.
What is your job title? What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I am the Advanced Supplier Quality Manager responsible for future programs at Allison transmission.
I am responsible for new suppliers coming on board and for existing programs. We perform a technical liaison function between our product engineering group and the supplier to make sure the supplier can produce everything to our requirement. We verify manufacturing methods and measuring methods to make sure that the manufacturing process is producing products to our specification. I have 12 SQE’s in my group who report to me.
What are the key challenges you face every day at work?
Managing the communication cross-functionally both internally and with the supplier. So we need to have people with technical competence and good communication skills to manage all of that interaction both internally and externally with the supplier base. Even if they are not subject matter experts, they need to have enough capability to understand the process and make a value judgement. We rely heavily on people who have strong technical competence. A part of the challenge there is that we cover forging, casting (iron and aluminum, sand, die), extrusions, heat treat, polymers, stampings etc. We have so many different materials and processes that even if we divide it up amongst 12 people; those 12 still need to have a broad spectrum of knowledge, understanding and communications skills to coordinate all of that.
Tell us about your professional background.
I have a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. I am an active licensed professional engineer in the state of Indiana. I started out in product design for orthopedic implants then I transitioned to the automotive industry. I have worked in product engineering, manufacturing engineering and quality for various products in the automotive field. I started out (with automotive) at Remy International, Inc. (formerly Delco Remy). I also owned my own rapid prototyping business for six years.
Gear transmission business is complex. Did you receive formal training before you stepped into the industry?
We have Allison-specific training that we put folks through not only culturally for how we do business but also specific to the commodities that we need. We have an extensive training department that trains customers and distributers; we also utilize it to train internally for employees.
How much time did you spend every day/ week on this program? Did you learn at home or at work?
I use it at work; I spend an hour per week that I block out on my calendar to work on THORS courses.
What made you recommend this product to your colleagues?
What was your desired outcome from taking the courses? Did you achieve it?
Yes, I was able to. For me personally, I use it to verify proficiency and knowledge. I also use it for folks who claim subject matter expertise. I let them take your quiz and if they pass it I am okay with saying that they are subject matter experts, if they don’t then they are not able to verify knowledge. Also, if you know going in that it is an unfamiliar topic and you take the pre-assessment quiz, you can measure the increase in knowledge in the end (with the post-assessment). We can establish that we increased the knowledge by the end of the course. It is a measurement tool to monitor progress and increase knowledge. The other thing we like is that it allows you to go back to use it as a reference material even after you finish taking the course.
What is the value you got out of the program? Did it make your job easier? Do you approach your tasks differently?
I don’t know that I approach anything differently because I am an engineer by education and I am predisposed to problem-solving thought processes. It gave me additional information to ask better questions and to be more informed of the processes and the designs we were working with. It absolutely made my job easier because a part of my job is to get the right people in the right places and so if I have people that learn more then they are going to do a better job- which makes my job easier. For my current role, having the people on my team smarter about processes and design is the big benefit.
If there is a value you got out of the program – can you measure it in terms of job efficiency?
Subjectively, yes. People are able to do their jobs better, ask better questions, understand processes fully. But I don’t have the metrics to calculate the efficiency. Are people able to do their job better because they are smarter, verify processes more efficiently? I would say yes. But I won’t have an objective measurement for that. We have a definite increase in productivity but I don’t know how to quantify it.
If you had this program when you first started your career in the transmission industry, would it have made a difference?
I definitely think so. It would have shortened my learning curve and accelerated my learning and proficiency. I think if you go through the THORS courses then you can get probably 3-5 years of on-the-job training in a very brief amount of time. You can get all the fundamentals and the vocabulary.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely would you recommend this product to a colleague or a friend?
I would do a 9 only because I am very stingy with 10’s!
Your advice for newcomers in your industry?
My personal bet is to acquire as much technical knowledge as you can because that translates into a world of different job disciplines and organizational responsibilities that would make you more successful. All of it is performance-based but the smarter you are the better your chances to perform.
Your advice to aspiring managers like you?
In general terms, we look for people who volunteer for additional assignments, take on additional responsibilities and request additional opportunities. Those are the kind of people we tend to put in a pool to develop. If you stop learning you stagnate and get passed over. As you stop trying to learn your opportunities will diminish.