What does your company stand for? Do you value quality-control above all else or do you put your greatest efforts into hitting production targets? What are your projected targets for the coming year? What turnover do you aspire to? These are questions that, as part of the management corps of your factory, you will be intimately acquainted with. You’ve probably spent hours discussing these very matters. Maybe your factory’s goals for the coming year excite you, motivate you to put in extra hours, or at least ignite pride in your organisation and your valued role within it.
Now consider the average factory worker who spends hours a day grinding on the shop-floor. Is he aware of your targets, projections and goals? Does she understand what your company hopes to achieve in the coming year? If you are like the overwhelming majority of manufacturing outfits the world over, the answer will be a resounding NO!
It is in fact, a rare factory boss who considers sharing his company’s vision and ethos with the perceived “lowly” factory-worker and this is a big mistake. Here’s why..
When employees are invited to share in the collective goals of the organization they work for, self-esteem, pride and motivation rises. You get so much more out of employees who are invested in the future of the company and who are made to understand that their role (however small it might seem in the grand scheme of things) really matters to the collective whole. And matter it does! You can deploy the most sophisticated machinery on the market, but if you fall down on the human level, your factory’s production and profits will suffer. However far humanity has gone down the road of technologization, it still relies heavily on manpower for the vast majority of its manufacturing functions.
According to a Gallup survey, up to 70% of American employees are not reaching their potential. Much of this is attributable to employees not feeling connected to, or having a full understanding of, their company’s mission. No business or industry, manufacturing included, is immune to this pervasive problem. When management fails to include those working on the factory floor in their ideas about overall mission and goals, factory employees’ are less clear about the importance of their job and display lower levels of motivation. In a typical factory, management sets goals for the production team based on their bottom-line needs. While they are very clear on what they want and why, the factory workers who carry out the day-to-day tasks, are not. To them, the task-list can seem arbitrary and meaningless making them less likely to put in their best work or take pride in it.
Andre L’avoir, CEO and Co-Founder of ClearCompany, states that “the better employees understand and align with the vision statement, the higher the chances of their staying on board and being happier to contribute.” You want your employees to put in their best efforts, take shorter breaks, waste less time, work harder and more accurately? Allow them to be a party to your greater vision and watch them soar!
Let’s not forget the converse applies too. Management may not fully appreciate what the day-to-day life of the production workers looks like either. A greater appreciation from both sides of how each cog in the factory wheel contributes to the whole, will lead to enhanced satisfaction and productivity.
Consider the case of materials manufacturer Isola Group in Germany. Recognizing the lack of motivation amongst factory workers, Isola’s management instigated a change and started asking production staff to be involved in selecting new productivity and yields targets based on their own assessment of their capabilities. They also developed and posted charts in common areas so everyone could track the plant’s progress. The results of the trial were truly remarkable. “The fact that management was listening to workers’ ideas—and was quickly trying them out—helped boost morale and directly improved processes, reducing cycle times and virtually eliminating work-in-progress inventory. As the initiative gathered momentum, employees began volunteering to work overtime on improvements.”
Imagine a simple software solution that pictorially illustrates exactly what is happening on the factory floor, flags-up any issues and makes it easier for management to resolve problems. Such solutions are coming onto the market these days as part of the much-welcomed Industry 4.0 revolution. Solutions like these can help managers stay on top of production, set and track targets and swiftly iron-out any problems. The results can also be shared with workers so they feel more invested in and understand the bigger picture.
Rather than valuing machines over humans, cutting-edge solutions like these, help factories capitalize on the synergy between humans and machines beckoning in a new era of smarter, more productive and happier factories.
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