The can making industry is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Many legacy can plants are being modernized with new technology, faster equipment, and can size change flexibility to meet the future market demands of 2-piece aluminum cans. Conversely, the supply of experienced canmaking personnel and knowledgeable maintainers is not keeping pace with the rapid expansion of the market.
In the 1980’s, the can industry had apprenticeship programs, management development programs, and a full-time training supervisor at almost every can plant to train new employees. Following that, the can industry saw lean times and most of those programs were discontinued. The training efforts didn’t begin again until the early 2000s, creating a 20-year gap in trained canmakers.
The next generation of canmakers are generally very computer savvy but may lack real mechanical and electrical experience. The people coming from trade schools or junior college industrial/maintenance Associate Degree programs are the best source of new skilled employees with the necessary skills needed. Can manufacturers should understand that starting with basic mechanical and electrical skills provides a solid foundation for new employees to learn the specific maintenance tasks for can machinery, as well as troubleshooting skills from veteran canmakers.
Many can manufacturers have adopted a two-tier system of can line operators and mechanics. The first tier is newer individuals in the industry that operate the machinery on the can line, react to clear jams, and do simple daily maintenance and housekeeping. The second tier of maintainers is more experienced and has demonstrated reliable troubleshooting skills. They are also proficient at rebuilding machinery components and performing precise machine alignments and set-up. These individuals often comprise a “maintenance team” of individuals specializing in maintenance day planned downtime, equipment overhauls, and rapid response to break down situations.
With online training becoming more common, Roeslein offers a valuable solution with basic training of canmaking principles and maintenance procedures through its Learning Management System. This virtual approach appeals to the next generation of canmakers and allows new employees to study and learn at their own pace. The basic training is well suited for the operator class of team members to acquaint them with the canmaking process and is a valuable tool for refreshing the more experienced maintainers with intermediate and advanced maintenance procedures.