What does it take to run a successful manufacturing operation? Companies that embrace innovation, shift operational models to keep pace with change and invest in ongoing employee development are likely to stay ahead of the pack.
That’s the enviable position 140-year-old R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJRT) in Winston-Salem finds itself in, thanks in part to its long-standing partnership with Forsyth Tech. The company credits the college with helping it achieve those three essentials for success, bolstering its status as the second-largest tobacco company in the U.S.
Training Is Key
Continuous training is one of the keys to both employees’ and the company’s success. “We help our manufacturing employees succeed through continuous skill-gap analysis, technical training and employee development,” says Nancy Hawley, senior vice president of operations at RJRT.
She’s effusive about the many ways Forsyth Tech supports RJRT’s employee training. “Forsyth Tech is a huge strategic partner for us,” states Ms. Hawley, who also serves as chair of the board of directors for the Forsyth Tech Foundation. “The college has been so flexible. As our business has changed, they’ve changed their training models to incorporate new technology, and they’ve adjusted their training schedules to meet our employees’ alternative work schedules.”
Staying Ahead Of The Curve
The college develops customized content and provides instruction tailored to the company’s needs. Customized workforce development programs and testing modules include training that enables employees to regularly renew their professional licenses and to test for higher-level positions. For example, it trains for MultiSkill positions (requiring several disciplines: Pipefitting, Sheet Metal, Millwright and Electrician). The college also provides instruction in blueprint reading, hydraulics and pneumatics, and mechanical skills.
As RJRT adds new products to its manufacturing lineup, the college adapts by training employees for new equipment and processes. Forsyth Tech recently added a Flexible Manufacturing Simulator to its Industrial Systems Technology program to train employees for production of VUSE e-cigarette, which RJRT contract manufactures for another subsidiary of parent company Reynolds American, Inc.
In her previous position as vice president of manufacturing at RJRT, Ms. Hawley saw firsthand Forsyth Tech’s success in educating, as well as in training. The company hires many Forsyth Tech graduates who enter the job market with the proficiency they need to perform today’s highly skilled manufacturing jobs. The quality of Forsyth Tech candidates has helped make her one of the college’s biggest cheerleaders.
“I’m a big supporter of Forsyth Tech. The college offers something for everyone. It’s an investment in the future of our community,” she says. “Forsyth Tech helps so many people better their lives and contributes to making businesses profitable. It’s fantastic.”