Introducing skills

Posted on 3 Dec 2009 by The Manufacturer

Automotive component manufacturer Kautex, with support from Cardiff University, has developed a groundbreaking skills course which has greatly improved employee morale.

Kautex, part of the Textron Group, is one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive components. Its Hengoed plant, near Caerphilly in south Wales, specialises in manufacturing screen wash and headlamp cleaning systems, and is the company’s research and development headquarters for these products. From there, the firm supplies to some of the globe’s top car makers including Toyota, Nissan, Land Rover, BMW, Audi, SAAB and Volvo.

The recession hit the Hengoed plant hard in September 2008 when it saw a dramatic 50% reduction in sales turnover (falling from £37m in 2006/07 to £24m in 2007/08).

The company developed the new training course with Cardiff University and 1st Solutions Training because it could not find an existing course that met its specific requirements. The 10-day course called Automotive Industry Awareness (AiA) which is accredited by OCN, takes an in-depth look at the workings of the automotive industry and is designed to help staff at all levels, from shop floor operators through to project managers, develop a holistic understanding of the automotive industry. The course can also be used by other companies and the JobMatch programme, which is a Welsh Assembly Government-backed initiative that helps unemployed people into work, is also considering adding it to its approved list of courses.

The skills course has been funded by the Welsh Assembly Government’s ProAct programme, which is designed to help companies in Wales to up-skill during the downturn.

The course has helped Kautex staff understand how the Hengoed plant fits into the big picture and focuses on the supply chain process starting from the customer order, through to scheduling management, ordering from suppliers, product design, quality control, finance, process engineering and customer expectations. So far 150 staff have successfully completed the course.

Jonathan Jones, operational director of Kautex’s Hengoed plant, says: “The ProAct wage subsidy has helped us to keep people employed who otherwise would have been laid off. We’ve used the money set aside for training to develop a new course tailored to the needs of our staff which has proved a great success. It has significantly helped boost knowledge, confidence and morale among employees at this difficult time,” he added.

Of great importance says Jones is that the course has improved working relationships. “Because the course helps staff to see the big picture they feel more enlightened, and it’s helped to alleviate some anxiety and uncertainty about the future. Because staff are better informed they’re also less suspicious of management decisions.”