Constructing an Advanced Manufacturing Workforce at Volvo

IndustryWeek Magazine recently interviewed Sean Glennon, president of Volvo Construction Equipment for North America. He had many interesting and relevant thoughts on how his organization goes about building an advanced manufacturing workforce. There are plenty of lessons that can be applied to Oklahoma’s small and medium-sized manufacturers.

“Cross-functionality” is a phrase that surfaces several times in that conversation with Glennon. Looking at his career, it’s easy to understand why. He’s that golden type who can fluidly move between front office and operations. “If you go into a functional area [from a front office role], you’ve got to work with the people in a positive, constructive way and learn and listen a lot because you don’t come from that area,” Glennon told IndustryWeek. “So I’ve always tried to do that. It’s helped me perform at the level that I do today.”

In 2009, he was promoted to head of Volvo CE’s Shippensburg, Penn., plant, which produces wheel loaders, compaction equipment and paving equipment. Two years ago, he moved to his current role, where he’s made cross-functionality a priority for his 1,000+ employees with in-house and outside training.

We can’t always hire the interns we train, but it’s our intent to prepare them. Because you never know how that may be returned to you. They may end up working with a supplier that we work with. They could end up working for a dealer or a customer.

We also have a pretty healthy relationship with some of the technical schools in the counties near our facility. We helped develop the curriculum and provided some tooling and fixturing. They learn not just how to weld or assemble, but also some lean manufacturing methods and principles.

I think the skills that are becoming more and more required are those related to electrical systems and electronics. Things are becoming more automated, more robotic, more software-oriented. That’s already begun. You can see it in the products, but that’s also part of the manufacturing process.

In the past few years, our investments have been in material handling automation, next generation robotics, welding and dry machining. We have a lot of programmable machining centers. We have robotic welding. We have a lot of AGVs to move materials. Those types of things are just going to become more prevalent.

Click here to read the entire IndustryWeek interview.