Bell Equipment chief executive, Gary Bell has made a commitment to increase the company’s investment in the development of its employees so that the company can continue to grow and compete internationally.
Bell was speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Bell Equipment Training Centre in August where he congratulated 20 employees who have completed an Operations Management Development Programme under the auspices of the Production Management Institute of South Africa (PMI), as well as four who have completed a Fundamental Management Programme (FMP) through the UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership.
The company’s executive manager: manufacturing, Clive Hodgson was the guest speaker and explained the background to the PMI Operations Management Development Programme, which Bell introduced in 2008. ‘Around that time Bell experienced rapid growth of production volumes but was finding it difficult to bring in external supervisors and managers,’ he said. ‘As the only South African manufacturer with this level of complexity, we found that many people we brought in struggled because they lacked an understanding of the Bell culture, our products and the unique way that we do things in our production and stores.’
At the same time the company realised that it had a strong group of employees on the shop floor with the required technical abilities and product experience yet had lacked the opportunity to pursue tertiary studies, which excluded them from applying for supervisor and managerial positions. The PMI development programme was born to enable Bell to grow its own timber and several groups have now attended the course and progressed in their careers.
The PMI course runs for a year with lectures every Saturday, which has its challenges. ‘Many Supervisors would be coming off a third shift and walk straight into their class, or they would finish their lectures in the afternoon and go onto their overtime shift on the weekend. So it wasn’t easy but the results have been incredible. The lowest mark that was achieved in the class was 64%. I also sat through many of the final presentations in terms of cost reduction and there were some great ideas,’ said Hodgson.
For similar reasons Bell also put four trainee supervisors through the UNISA FMP. Hodgson said this was quite challenging because they were expected to work as supervisors, work on shifts and study by themselves. There were no lectures. They had one contact session where they met with lecturers in Pretoria and got advice. In spite of this they also achieved outstanding results and all four went on to be appointed as fully-fledged supervisors and are proving to be very successful.
In congratulating the students, Shalen Mohanlall PMI academic manager for KwaZulu-Natal said, ‘It was a long programme and I know many of you went through a lot of difficulty working, studying part-time, managing your family lives and your social lives. It was a really difficult process but you guys came through with flying colours. It was the best class that we’ve had in the last few years in terms of your results and in terms of your work ethic. Well done!’
Thanduxolo Taboshe, a supplier quality engineer based in the Bell Supplier Quality Team in Richards Bay, was announced the top student with the highest average in the class, as well as the highest average for the programme in KwaZulu-Natal. For his efforts he received a bursary from PMI to the value of R35 000. He will go on to the NQF6 Diploma in Operations Management and will attend PMI’s public classes in Durban.
In closing, Gary Bell thanked PMI for its assistance in putting the Bell candidates through the programme, as well as the graduates for giving up their time to further their studies. He added that Bell would add to Thanduxolo’s bursary by covering the other costs related to the programme and said, ‘In time we look forward to seeing you back up here with your next qualification.’