Training in Heavy & Light Industries: What’s the Difference?

What are the differences in frontline employee training for heavy industry vs light industry? Learn about the differences, with examples.
Two male workers stand in a workshop, engaged in a discussion. One, wearing a yellow hard hat, gestures with his hands while explaining something. The other, holding a tablet, listens intently with a thoughtful expression. Both are in work uniforms.
Published on:
10 May 2024
Updated on:
30 May 2024

The world of manufacturing is often divided into two categories: heavy industry and light industry. Both sectors have many differences – including how to train new employees.

What are the differences between employee training in heavy industry and light industry? In which aspects do they focus? In this article, we will highlight these differences.

We’ll start by briefly explaining the basics about the heavy & light industries. Then, we’ll continue by discussing the differences in employee training in both industry categories.

Heavy Industry vs Light Industry

Before going further, it’s important to know the difference between heavy & light industries.

Heavy industry is a sector that manufactures goods destined for business/industry purposes (B2B). Meanwhile, light industry manufacturers produce goods that are meant for personal consumption (B2C).

Check out our What Is Light Industry? and What Is Heavy Industry? explainers for a deeper dive into both sectors. Be sure to see our Heavy Industry vs Light Industry comparison to know the differences between the two sectors.

Which Industries Fall Under Each Sector?

Here are examples of industries that fall under each sector:

Heavy industry examples:

  • Heavy machinery manufacturing
  • Chemicals
  • Commercial vehicle manufacturing
  • Metal making

Light industry examples:

  • Textiles
  • Fast-moving consumer goods
  • Consumer electronics
  • Pharmaceuticals

Differences in Employee Training

Now, we’ll get to the main point of this article: what are the differences between employee training in the heavy and light industries?

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The Safety Aspect

The most visible difference is the heavy industry’s strong emphasis on workplace safety. Many heavy industry production activities are highly dangerous, such as:

  • Pouring molten metal alloy (which is often hotter than 1,000°C!) into the desired cast to create an industrial-grade metal product. Any incident with molten metal can easily be deadly due to its extremely high temperature.
  • Liquifying natural gas to make them transportable using a tanker ship. Natural gas is a highly flammable substance that can easily cause an explosion if not handled properly.
  • Painting a truck’s body using primer, base, and clear coating paints. These paints contain microscopic metal particles. If inhaled, they can cause various respiratory problems.

These are only a few illustrations of how dangerous heavy industry production activities can be. That’s why workplace safety is always at the center of most training activities in heavy industry.

Employees are taught about safety precautions, how to do their tasks safely, and procedures that must be taken whenever an incident happens.

In addition, due to their high-risk tasks, heavy industry workers are also trained to use special gear, such as:

  • A face shield and a heat & fire-resistant suit for heavy-duty welding. Commonly seen in the shipbuilding, aviation, and heavy machinery manufacturing industries.
  • A self-carried breathing apparatus used by workers in the cement industry to protect them from inhaling limestone debris particles.
  • A noise canceling headphone and personal communication device to use in high-noise environments (often used in the petrochemical industry).

Thus, having simple yet informative work instructions is a must. Use digital work instructions for this purpose! You can include various visual elements such as images, videos, symbols, and even 3D models in your work instruction!

A computer screen displays an instructional page for assembly work at Azumuta. The page includes a photo of hands wearing blue gloves assembling machine parts with text explaining the use of metal-cutting tools. A safety notice and tool icons are shown on the right.

These visual elements will make your work instructions much clearer. In addition, training your frontline employees will also be a far easier task.

With digital work instructions software, you can create, edit, and share your work instructions from a single platform. Your employees can also access your work instructions from their devices anywhere, at any time.

Learn More About Azumuta’s Digital Work Instructions

Here’s the first step to have a paperless factory

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Meanwhile, production activities in light industry tend to be less risky than the ones in heavy industry. This is because:

  • Light industry manufacturers rarely handle raw materials (e.g., iron ores to make steel, crude oil to make asphalt, and quartz sand for glassmaking) that must be transformed into semi-finished goods. Transforming one matter to another means either heating, crushing, or cooling them. This process involves extreme temperature changes or exposing them to immense force. These processes are extremely hazardous. Instead, light industry manufacturers generally process semi-finished goods into finished products that are ready to be used by the end consumer. Due to the absence of extreme temperature changes or exposure to a large amount of force, their production activities tend to be less risky. Thus safety procedures often occupy a smaller portion of a light industry employee’s training materials compared to their heavy industry peers.
  • Light industry uses production tools and machinery that tend to be smaller and less powerful than their heavy industry parallels. We will further discuss tools and machinery-related training in the next section.

Employee Certifications

Another notable difference between heavy and light industry training is the prevalence of certifications. Employee certifications are more common in heavy industry than in light industry.

The heavy industry uses many tools and equipment that are much more complex and powerful than their light industry peers. As a result, only trained and certified professionals can operate them. Hence, many heavy industry training programs are oriented toward getting a certain certification. For example:

  • According to OSHA regulations, cranes in the US with a lifting capacity of over 2,000 lbs must be operated by a trained & certified operator.  Industrial cranes are widely used in the shipbuilding, metal-making, and aviation industries.
  • The cement industry uses various vehicles in its operations. From front-loader vehicles to gigantic quarry trucks, these heavy vehicles require special training and licenses to operate.
  • Due to its fire hazard, any industrial welder must be trained and ideally hold a professional welding certificate. Organizations like AWS in the US and EWF in the EU offer welding training and certifications.

Use reliable manufacturing workforce management software to manage your team’s certifications! Make sure that your platform can generate a personalized employee report for each employee on your team. The report should include all important details, such as their training history, skill levels, and the validity of their professional certifications.

A screenshot of a training dashboard for Brent Lagesire. It includes his email and interface language. The dashboard lists upcoming trainings (Assembly and Testing) with their execution dates and trainer names. It also shows past trainings with dates and completion statuses.

Moreover, you’ll need a tool that’ll send you an automated reminder whenever one of your team member’s certifications is about to expire. That way, your human resources will always comply with the existing regulations.

A diagram illustrating four time periods:

Workforce Flexibility

Light industry workers are generally more flexible than their heavy industry counterparts. They can perform a wide variety of roles, while heavy industry workers tend to specialize in one field. This is because:

  • Heavy industry products are far more complex than light industry ones. For example, a Boeing 737NG airliner consists of around 600,000 parts that must be assembled by hundreds of highly-trained workers. They must be put together by workers who specialize in a specific section of the plane. Be it the plane’s engines, cabin, or any other section.
  • Meanwhile, light industry products are far simpler. For instance, a shirt can be made by just a handful of textile workers. The tasks involved in making a shirt are also quite simple. Workers only need to cut pieces of pre-made fabric, sew them together, add accessories (e.g., buttons, brand labels, etc.), perform a quality check, and then pack them before they’re sent to a distributor. Hence, textile workers are commonly very versatile. They can perform all of the tasks needed to make a shirt. In most cases, they can be assigned to any production station in their factory. They can easily fill their role whenever their colleagues are absent (either due to sickness or on leave).
  • In addition, unlike in heavy industry, not many light industry jobs require prior certification to perform. Thus, light industry employees are more flexible in terms of tasks that they’re allowed to do.

Use skill matrix software to enhance your workforce’s flexibility. It can visualize your team’s entire skills range with an automatically color-coded skill matrix. That way, you’ll be informed of your team’s capabilities with just a single glance. Thanks to it, assigning tasks and planning a weekly rooster will be a walk in the park.

A screenshot of a competency matrix from Azumuta. It shows five skill levels (Novice to Expert), and skills for Assembly operators and Frame operators with ratings from 1 to 3. There are tabs for Work Instructions, Workflow Variants, ERP Configuration, and Documents.

Learn More About Azumuta’s Skill Matrix & Training

Keep track of your employee’s training progress and competencies
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Introduction to the Local Environment

Sometimes, a heavy industry plant is located next to their raw material source. For instance:

  • A steel plant is often located close to an iron mine.
  • A cement factory is generally built next to a limestone quarry.
  • A lumber mill is always built near a timber forest.

Living and working in these areas can be challenging. For example, mining activities can be exceptionally loud. A limestone quarry produces plenty of dust that can harm our health. Meanwhile, several dangerous animals can live in a timber forest, such as bears and wolves.

Thus, the onboarding courses of employees in these industries often include materials on how to navigate and survive their local environments. These concerns are an important aspect of their safety and well-being, after all.

Try Azumuta Today!

Check out how Novy’s use of Azumuta has led to impressive improvements! 60% fewer customer complaints, 50% less time spent on creating and managing work instructions, 40% quicker problem resolution, 40% less time spent on employee training, and an overall 20% full-time employee gain due to increased work instructions efficiency.Not yet convinced? Be sure to check other success stories as well. Our Digital Work Instructions and Skill Matrix & Training modules are your digital onboarding tool for new employees.

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After discovering the pain points in the documentation process, Novy introduced Azumuta to the shop floor. Azumuta offered a centralized platform for all work instructions and checklists that were easily accessible by all stakeholders, including the quality department, R&D department and engineering department.

Joris Cuvelier
Quality Assurance Coordinator at Novy

Join The Digital Shop Floor Revolution!

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