Working Remotely: Is it Even Possible in Manufacturing?
In the not-too-distant past, there was no such thing as working remotely. Work took place at the office (or factory, or quarry, etc) and home life happened after 5pm (or whenever the shift ended). Over the last few years, that clear dividing line between office and home has blurred as more and more people have begun to work remotely from home, from a coffee shop, or even from a beach vacation.
There are varying opinions on whether employees are more productive working from home without the constant interruption of impromptu meetings or water-cooler chats with colleagues. Or, are they less productive at home due to the distractions of a sink full of dishes or, more likely, a television to watch. It is the latter that makes some employers skeptical of allowing this perk, despite 99% of remote workers wanting to continue working remotely and several studies proving that people working from home are equally if not more productive than those in a traditional workplace.
But How Can A Factory Be Run Remotely?
People who work in manufacturing are not exempt from the desire to work remotely. In fact, 51% of manufacturing employees would like to have more flexibility in their working conditions. For those whose job is physically managing the machinery on the factory floor, yes, a work-from-home option is rather difficult. And perhaps it’s because of that fact that manufacturers are reluctant to provide that option to other employees whose physical presence is actually not necessary in order for them to do their job.
One of the main reasons employers give for not offering remote working (across industries, not just manufacturing) is the feeling that if one employee or category of employee is allowed, then everyone must be given the option. That is simply not true, and there are plenty of companies that manage to find the right balance between on-site workers and remote workers. When it comes to manufacturing, anyone who applies for a job working a piece of machinery is likely to understand that it will require being in the same location as said machinery. There are plenty of other types of flexibility that can be provided to such workers, such as flexible shift-hours, shorter work weeks, extra vacation days, etc.
For those in manufacturing whose job is not machine-specific, such as middle and upper management, there really is no reason to not work remotely either on a regular basis or as needed/desired. Especially now, with Industry 4.0 changing the way work is done across industries, there are plenty of technological tools that allow you to work from a remote location and still feel like you’re in the factory.
A few examples of these tools:
Zoom and other online meeting tools – These tools are commonly used in businesses with global locations as a way to bring people together, virtually in the same room, when they are really in far-flung locations. They work just as well to talk to someone who is across town as across the world. If you manage a factory, are working from home, and want to be present at a meeting, you can join via Zoom. With the right set-up at the factory itself, meetings can even be held right on the factory floor so that the remote workers can see what’s going on there.
Google Docs and other document sharing tools – With Google being the most common, document-sharing tools online mean multiple people being able to work on the same document and see each other’s changes in real time. This way, you can collaborate with colleagues without being in the same place.
Factory monitoring software – If you are a manager who needs to know what’s happening in your factory at all times, but you don’t need to be physically present there, you can install monitoring software that will provide you with a complete picture of everything happening all along your assembly line. Access the program remotely, and you can make sure your machines are all working properly from wherever in the world you might be. If you spot a problem, you can then be in touch with your workers on the ground to solve it. If you manage a factory, you may not want to work remotely all the time, but you shouldn’t think that it’s never an option. As with most things in life, it’s all about finding the balance.