The manufacturing sector contributes around 16 % of global GDP annually and is responsible for around 14 % of the world’s employment, according to McKinsey.The sector is extremely diverse… but one thing that many different organizations in the manufacturing industry have in common, regardless of what they manufacture, how they manufacture it and where they manufacture it, is the challenge of mastering internal communications.
The manufacturing workforce can be more difficult to reach than workforces in many other industry sectors. Often, manufacturing employees are in environments where they don’t have ready access to desktop computers where traditional internal communications materials are sent. They can be based in factories or plants, warehouses and other non desk based facilities where they make products and ship them.
The risk to companies in this sector is great.
Poor manufacturing communication can lead to:
- costly mistakes,
- breakdowns in safety,
- negative customer outcomes,
- the loss of talented and valuable employees,
- potential legal issues,
- reduced productivity,
- lower profits.
Achieving best-practice internal communication in the manufacturing industry
It can be a lot of hard work and take a lot of effort, but improving internal communications within your company in the manufacturing industry will definitely pay off, particularly if you follow these steps:
1. Clearly set out your communications objectives
Effective internal communication isn’t just about the HR or comms department communicating with employees, or the CEO sending updates. Every team member has a role to play in communication.
- managers effectively communicating with the people they supervise,
- employees communicating with management,
- colleagues communicating with one another,
- and different teams communicating with other teams within the organization to break down information silos.
These standards should be clearly set out for everyone in your factories, plants and warehouses to understand and to be able to follow. Consistency in communication is key to ensure that everyone understands the role they play in contributing to the success of the company and to understand the company’s goals, mission and vision.
Clearly set out communications processes will also empower consistency in communication across different locations.
2. Benchmark your communications activities
It’s hard to know if you’re making progress unless you have data and measurements to be able to tell for sure.
Determine how engaged your employees are by carrying out a benchmarking survey. Develop your internal communications strategy around the results with outcomes that you can measure both quantitatively and qualitatively. Future engagement surveys can determine if there is an improvement as well as other outcomes, for example lower staff turnover or improved safety rates.
3. Determine if there are any weaknesses you need to address
Your overall internal communications could seem quite healthy, but there may be a particular part of the organization that’s dragging your efforts down. For example, one specific team may have issues. Or one factory or logistics facility. Or even one entire geographic region.
When you find any weaknesses in your communications delivery like this, you’ll need to put strategic objectives in place. This might involve more training for these sections of your organization on using communications tools, coaching for leaders within plants, and other activities to boost engagement.
4. Use different internal communications tools
Technology is driving change in every industry, including the manufacturing sector. One of the effects of technological change is that it also changes the workforce. The manufacturing sector is increasingly seeing the rise of remote workforces, and non-desk workers. Communicating with these employees requires strategic planning and the embracing of digital technology and tools.
Using technology and tools to overcome internal communication challenges
Mainstream internal communications tools such as newsletters, emails and the intranet are not always fit-for-purpose when it comes to reaching workers in the manufacturing sector.
Here are some common internal communications challenges faced in the manufacturing industry, and ways that digital tools can help to solve them.
Challenge #1: Noisy environments
Manufacturing often involves lots of noisy machinery – there’s a reason why people have to wear protective gear to stop their hearing from being damaged. Noise creates other issues, especially when you’re relying on verbal communication either face-to-face or over a PA system to keep employees informed about critical information.
A great way to overcome this is to deploy eye-catching visual communications solutions such as digital signage displays, or have prominent alert notifications sent to any computer screens being used within your plant.
Challenge #2: Overcoming a large footprint
Companies operating in the manufacturing sector can be large, with a diverse workforce located in multiple geographic locations. This might include different business premises spread across a country, or even in different geographic locations globally. This can mean you have employees in multiple time zones, in different countries and continents, even speaking different languages and observing different cultural customs.
Communicating when you have employees working from many different locations is challenging at the best of times. Communicating in manufacturing, employees are less likely to be desk-bound. And many aren’t even physically located in a corporate environment at all – for example sales teams or transport operators who are constantly on the road. Even people in traditional desk-based roles in this sector, like other sectors, could work remotely from home as digital technology shifts the workforce landscape constantly.
An alerting tool like DeskAlerts can help you overcome this challenge by sending notifications to a variety of devices which will reach employees no matter where they are. Notifications can be sent to any corporate screen… this includes laptops and PCs for those who are at a desk or use other computer equipment within a plant. For employees on the go there are notifications sent to an app on smartphones and tablets. SMS alerts can be sent to cellphones. And the same notifications can be sent to any digital screens throughout your facilities.
Download for free
Challenge #3: Quickly communicating multiple hazards to ensure business continuity
The manufacturing sector has more occupational risks than sectors that are almost purely office-based. Heavy machinery and other equipment used in the manufacturing process, chemicals, transport and other occupational hazards can pose very real risks to the health, safety and lives of employees. Communication in manufacturing needs to be responsive to this.
Other risks such as fire, floods, gas leaks, natural disasters, terrorism and active shooters are also a concern.
Being able to quickly alert employees to any of these issues is crucial to help them remain safe. DeskAlerts can be used to send mass notifications outlining the issue, and what steps need to be taken, to 1000 people in just one minute, using only one click – saving valuable time in an emergency.
Alerts can be sent to any devices, including computer screens, mobile phones, tablets and any digital screens in your plant, factory, office, warehouse or other corporate facility.
DeskAlerts can also be configured to work with a range of other emergency notification systems so it will instantly alert your employees to a hazard, such as a fire or unsafe air quality.
Challenge #4: Low levels of employee engagement
There are lower levels of engagement in the manufacturing sector as a result of poor internal communications. According to a Gallup survey, only 25 % of people employed in manufacturing are engaged at work – this is 8 % lower than for the average US employee.
It’s estimated that actively disengaged employees in the United States alone cost the nation’s economy somewhere in the order of between $483 billion to $605 billion every year in lost productivity. And a further $1 trillion in losses can be attributed to preventable workplace injuries, illnesses, absences, staff turnover and fraud.
Poor communication in manufacturing is a major contributing factor to low levels of engagement – when people don’t know what’s going on or what’s expected of them, it’s difficult to feel like a valuable part of the process.
Using a range of innovative digital tools, you can cut through the clutter and noise of the modern manufacturing workplace and reach your employees with critical information.
Challenge #5: People are not always at the computer
Workers who are on the manufacturing floor don’t always have access to their smartphones or email. While workers who are on-the-go delivering your goods to your customers may not have access to computers or have the opportunity to be in an environment where they can see fixed digital displays.
It’s important, therefore, to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all tool to improve internal communication in manufacturing and, therefore, boost engagement. You will need to use a system that cuts through and caters for these diverse needs.
DeskAlerts has multiple channels and tools to reach employees in a range of scenarios: digital signage displays can be used to communicate to employees who don’t have email or smartphone access during their work hours. Mobile notifications can be used to reach those who are on the road or work remotely. Pop-up alerts can reach your desk-based employees and bypass the increasingly unreliable, overloaded email system.
Real-life examples of improved internal communication in manufacturing
Many organizations in the manufacturing industry already use DeskAlerts to improve their internal communications outcomes.
Communication case study #1 – Verso Corporation
DeskAlerts client, Verso Corporation is based in North America and produces printing papers, specialty papers and pulp.
The organization implemented DeskAlerts to provide a reliable way to keep employees informed about crucial information, including key systems outages and downtime.
Different departments within Verso Corporation use DeskAlerts to send information they need everyone to be aware of. This includes security teams based at the mill, safety and IT departments. They use the system to send urgent information about safety issues and IT outages.
According to Mike Oehler, IT Specialist with Verso Corporation, DeskAlerts has drastically sped up the amount of time it takes to get event notifications out to employees.
“We mainly use DeskAlerts for mill safety events such as fire, chemical leaks, bad weather and so on,” he said.
“We also use it for IT systems events such as IT systems outages and upgrades.”
“For most of our needs, DeskAlerts has the features we need and is easy to use,” he said.
Communication case study #2 – Catalyst Papers
Catalyst Papers manufacture a variety of printing papers, including newsprint and pulp used by newspapers, publishers and retailers.
The company needed a reliable solution for its emergency communications. Catalyst Papers turned to DeskAlerts for a solution using the API to send critical safety messages from Data Historian systems.
Jon Claude, Catalyst’s Manager of Manufacturing Systems, said that by monitoring sensors in various areas of the company’s production environment, they are able to trigger plant-wide messages in the event that dangerous situations arise. This includes hazardous levels of sulphur dioxide or hydrogen dioxide.
“Safety and environmental stewardship are part of our core operating philosophies,” he said.
“The flexibility that the DeskAlerts API offers has allowed us the opportunity to strive for results in this category and ensure we’re taking all steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of our employees,” he said.
If you’re finding internal communications and employee engagement to be a challenge within your manufacturing organization, start by taking some small steps as outlined above.
By making internal communication a priority within your organization you’ll find that you strengthen the internal culture in your plants, factories and outlets and your company will be more cohesive and better run.