Daikin dojos offer workforce training
In the U.S., the Japanese word “dojo” generally refers to a martial arts training space, but in recent years, the term’s also been adopted in business for workforce development.
In October 2021, Daikin Applied, a Minneapolis-based commercial HVAC equipment manufacturer, expanded the training dojo program at its Verona production facility, doubling the number of welding stations to four and the number of brazing stations to eight. Daikin also converted a room into a “universal dojo,” which currently hosts sheet-metal brake operator trainings but will later offer trainings on general manufacturing equipment and safety and electrical wiring. Started in 2008, Daikin’s dojos are for new employees or any worker requiring training for a new position.
About 20 years ago, Daikin’s Osaka, Japan-based parent company, Daikin Industries Ltd., set out to create an in-house workforce training program for its operations, which include sheet-metal processing, machine maintenance, painting, coating, dye making, mill working and chemical processing.
Daikin purchased the Verona facility, which produces air-cooled chillers and water-cooled chillers for industrial-scale HVAC systems, in 2006. In 2008, it opened a dojo devoted to training workers in brazing, a high-temperature process for joining metals. The company added a welding dojo in 2013 to support production of pressure vessels used as heat exchangers, such as evaporators and condensers. Both dojos are led by “meisters” — certified specialists who have been trained at Daikin’s global headquarters in Japan.
Site leader Scott Crickenberger says the dojos are designed to help Daikin meet the demand for technical skills, and no prior manufacturing experience is necessary. After earning initial certifications — typically a two-week process for welding and one week for brazing — workers are re-tested regularly — every six months for welding and annually for brazing.
In late October, the facility had 379 production workers, and Crickenberger says the goal is to reach 401. “But like a lot of manufacturers,” he says, “we’re seeing a lot of attrition right now.”
Rebekah Castle, Augusta County’s director of economic development and marketing, says Daikin’s training dojos demonstrate a commitment to its workforce.
“What a great investment and pledge to train employees and provide internal opportunities for upskilling,” Castle says. “The dojos offer Daikin a strong retention tool and a workforce that fits the manufacturing economy we have here in Augusta County and the Shenandoah Valley.”