What is cross training?
Google “cross training” and you get about 650 million results, most of them related to exercise activities. Entrepreneur defines cross training in the business sense thus: Teaching your employees the skills and responsibilities of another position at your company to increase their effectiveness https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/cross-training
Cross training for Pendant has a double meaning. We think of it in terms of the types of projects we do. And we think of it in terms of our team members and their skills.
How it works at Pendant
Just last week, James of “Where’s James?” fame at Pendant, worked on CAD design for one project, programming for another, preparation for startup on another, and panel testing for yet another. Matthew, another of Pendant’s controls experts, went to a remote site for startup on a project he designed. Rob was also with Matthew after having written the PLC program.
It started for Pendant as a matter of necessity. Rob founded Pendant, and not long after shifted the company focus to doing control systems integration. In the beginning, the company had limited resources, so Rob began cross training himself, not knowing then how important that would be to Pendant. In a short period, he became very competent at CAD design, programming, assembling panels, and going into the field for startup and commissioning. And as the company grew, Rob hired people who, like him, were licensed electricians before they got into controls work.
But there was another element to it, too. Rob realized that things Pendant learned in one customer segment, aviation refueling, were useful in other segments. Pendant quickly moved into other segments, including the process industries, conveyor handling, and training applications for electrical utilities. Pendant today does about 60% of its projects in conveyor and material handling. The other 40% is distributed among the other 3 segments. In a sense, you can say that we cross train the business as well.
The value of cross training the company and the team
Here are a few things we learned over the years, beginning with aviation refueling, that apply to all of our projects:
- Before you spend thousands of dollars on travel to execute a startup, especially an international one, you better have your act together. Going back to fix mistakes costs you capacity and money and your client valuable time. Be ready when you arrive.
- Be patient. You are going to encounter different people wherever you go. There may be language barriers. There may be major differences in electrical codes. You need to be patient enough to work through all of it.
- Your CAD drawings need to be crystal clear and easy to understand, regardless of where your project is. There is nothing worse than having to start up a poorly designed project, especially if it’s your own design.
- The importance of meeting deadlines is driven home when you are 15 hours from home and there’s only one flight each day that can get you there. Miss the deadline and you disappoint your client and miss your chance to get home.
- Having your panel builders work in close proximity to your designers and programmers enables direct real time feedback between them. This means faster turnaround times and a better, cleaner product for clients.
- We speak “electrical” and it pays off. We always design with the electrical installation in mind, making sure to minimize installation costs and headaches for our clients.
- Avoid over designing a project. It only costs money and time and doesn’t impress anyone that doesn’t benefit from extra features.
- Having a cross-trained team makes scheduling way easier and eliminates scheduling bottlenecks. Pendant meets your tightest deadlines as a result.
There are other benefits for the individual team members:
- People have a much greater opportunity to grow and learn in a small organization when they work in different areas.
- Variety helps people to remain engaged. Engaged employees take great care of clients.
- Doing startups gives team members a direct link to the voice of the client and a much better understanding of the problems we need to prevent or solve for our clients.
- Team members have a chance to learn which areas they enjoy and in which they are strong. This gives the company the best chance to match the right person to the job for each client and project.
We’re as committed to cross training our business and our team as ever. See how it can benefit you.