In today’s workplace, employee communication doesn’t only involve that between employees. An equally-important if overlooked component of employee communication involves effective integration of digital technology. This is especially necessary in manufacturing environments where operations are increasingly handled by both human labor and machine technology. From safety alerts to maintenance reports, effective, free-flowing employee communication is a non-negotiable.
Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Manufacturing companies depend on their employees’ hard skills with machinery to efficiently churn out products. However, mastering soft skills like effective employee communication and collaboration is what can turn an ordinary manufacturer into a Lean Six Sigma organization.
Here are three big ways you can take your manufacturing communications to an elite level.
1. Increase Machine-to-Machine Communication
We aren’t anywhere close to our manufacturing equipment passing the Turing Test, but with the arrival of the Internet of Things, smart machines today can share the data they collect. For something as simple as a torque wrench, smart machines can calibrate the amount of force to use on each part, thus decreasing errors and increasing efficiency.
This frees up employees on the floor to focus on higher level tasks like planning, maintenance, and quality control.
2. Close the Executive to Employee Communication Gap
In a survey of more than 1500 small- to mid-sized manufacturing company CEOs, 82 percent said that speaking to their employees was difficult or very difficult. In an industry where efficiency and growth are do-or-die propositions, it’s shocking that communication is the biggest obstacle.
“Manufacturers have focused so much on cost reduction that they’ve taken their eye off their people,” said Bill Flint, President of Flint Strategic Partners, a manufacturing consulting firm. He continues, “One of the best ways to tap into the collective wisdom of the production floor is to hold regular town-hall meetings, perhaps every quarter.”
3. Facilitate Employee Communication with Mobile Tech
Manufacturing employees typically aren’t glued to their computers all day, but messaging tech can still improve communication on the floor. With mobile phone usage increasing, managers can utilize enterprise messaging apps and other mobile tech to gather feedback from their employees on the floor.
The employees manufacturing the product are closest to the action and have perspectives that managers would benefit from hearing. By facilitating communication using mobile tech, managers can better oversee operations using key insights from frontline workers.
Just a few years ago, the company Henry Ford founded realized that internal communications in their North American manufacturing facilities had calcified. Understanding the importance of employee communication, they developed a new system and incorporated it directly into their production system.
Joe Kimball, an HR manager at one of Ford’s plants, said of the changes, “It has provided us with a system and a process so that we’re doing the same things everywhere and we’ve got a cadence laid out so that if you go from one plant to another you will see the same kinds of internal communications tools being used in a very deliberate way.” If one of America’s oldest manufacturing companies can reinvent their internal communications, your manufacturing company can also embrace new technology.