On-the-job training - This is the tried and true method that is still, unfortunately, the most common training program in the industry. This type of "non-training" training takes a huge toll on a company's productivity and profits.
Books - There are many excellent books on virtually every aspect of injection molding, extrusion, processing behavior of plastics materials, troubleshooting... you name it, someone has probably written a book on it. The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) is one excellent source of plastics industry reading material. The downside of books is that few people on the production floor will read them and the retention of knowledge is low. And it is just knowledge, not skills. Best used as reference material.
Seminars - There are many seminars available to plastics processors. A quick Google search will show youmanycompanies that put them on. At Paulson, we have the Paulson Plastics Academy that gives several seminars around the country on injection molding. These are both technical seminars as well as seminars for managers to understand the economics of molding. We address the skills portion of training with both live machine demonstrations and using SimTech, our injection molding machine simulator.
Interactive DVD/Online training - It is becoming the most widely used training method in plastics manufacturing plants. Some of the advantages are available in the plant to all employees, everyone gets the same training, employees actually enjoy it because it allows them to learn at their pace, it is customizable, the information is always current, all record keeping is handled automatically and it allows a company to "grow their own" molding experts. The plastics industry's skilled labor shortage can become a non-issue.
Simulators - The most popular ones are injection molding machine simulators. Just like the airlines use simulators to keep their pilots current, injection molders can avoid wasting expensive machine time and train on an injection molding machine simulator. Paulson's simulator, called SimTech, allows trainee's to run a wide variety of simulations and see immediate results. For example, temperature changes will be reflected instantly instead of having to wait several minutes. So a lot of hands-on training can be packed into a shorter amount of time than at a seminar, for example.
Blended Learning - Any or all of the above can be combined to construct your own specialized training program. By combining several different training options, employees will get a variety of learning opportunities. Employees will tend towards the method they like best and that is perfectly fine. This "blended" learning model is best constructed with the assistance of an experienced trainer. When you combine training from several different sources, you need to make sure the information doesn't conflict and the integration of training components is as seamless as possible.