Manufacturing companies have a lot of challenges to face.
These challenges include issues like a lack of supply, a lack of workers, and other similar problems.
And these problems are only exacerbated by communication issues. It can be difficult to keep everyone informed and on the same page. And a lack of communication can result in inefficiency, and even a loss of revenue (as we'll see below).
So how can you improve communication in manufacturing? What can you do to make your communication as open and useful as possible?
Below are some tips—including 1 surprisingly simple, yet radically helpful, strategy.
Before we get into all of that, how helpful is effective communication really, when it comes to manufacturing?
Bill Mondillo is a facilities manager in a manufacturing company called Metalworking Group, and he could testify to how poor communication can cost a company real money.
Now, his story must first be set up by clarifying that his company has a policy about paying their employees. This policy states that employees are paid a minimum of 2 hours’ worth of wages every time they come into work, regardless of whether they actually worked those full hours.
This broadly seems like a good policy—for example, from an employee’s perspective, it makes sense that if you get called into work unexpectedly and only end up working 1 hour, you could get paid for an additional hour to help compensate for commute time and inconvenience.
However, this policy came back to bite the company on one particular day.
Why? Because on this particular day the company had a power outage.
A power outage in and of itself already isn’t a good thing for a business, but in Metalworking Group’s case it was especially problematic.
Since the power was out, no work was able to be done, which is bad enough.
But what made it even worse was that Bill and the other managers didn’t have a way to contact employees, because due to the power outage, email didn’t work and they didn’t have a way to access their phone number database.
Double whammy… They had no good way to communicate with their employees.
So people showed up to work, and they were sent home since there was no work to be done.
And each employee got paid for 2 hours, when they did 0 hours of work.
So not only was the company unable to be productive due to the power outage, they were losing money by having to pay employees who weren’t doing anything.
All of this goes to show that a lack of communication can have very real consequences. Not only lost money (in Bill’s case), but wasted time with people not showing up to meetings or events or missing memos—and even safety issues, if people don’t see an important safety update.
Those points then beg the question…
“So how do I have an effective communication process in my manufacturing business?”
There are many different kinds of manufacturing employees, from operators to technicians to managers.
Some will work in an office. Some won’t.
Some will work from home. Some won’t.
Some will have regular daytime working hours. Some won’t.
With such a variety of workers and contexts, how do you keep everyone on the same page and make sure everyone knows what they need to know?
Make sure you have a clear communication plan in place. Having clear procedures will help your management team know:
It’s best if as many people as possible can be familiar with your communication plan, so that everybody has an understanding of what’s expected.
There are so many different tools you can use for communication in manufacturing.
In general, it’s best not to rely too much on a single tool, particularly when it comes to time-sensitive communication.
Here are a few examples of tools you can use…
One of the most obvious communication tools is email.
Although email is fading in popularity, it’s still heavily used as a communication tool, particularly within workplaces.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that although office employees are constantly checking their email, other types of employees aren’t sitting around a computer all day. Thus, these non-office folks may not see email communications right away (if at all).
So while email is an important tool to use, you don’t want to rely on it too much.
Some companies have their own system that functions essentially like an in-house email inbox. This is a system everyone needs to log in to when they “clock in,” and log out of when they “clock out.”
Employees may or may not be able to access the system from home.
If your company has a system like this, you can take advantage of that to send out internal company memos.
While internal company memos sent through your system can be effective, they suffer from some of the same issues as email—while many employees may read these notices faithfully, others may not.
Another tool you can use for communication in manufacturing is onsite announcements over an intercom.
This is very effective for getting the attention of many people who are working on location then and there, but may not work for people who are in a noisy environment.
(And it obviously wouldn’t be effective to reach people who aren’t onsite.)
Although not good for immediate announcements, if you need a place for employees to refer back to, you can post pertinent information on your website or on a social media page.
This could be good for communication regarding issues such as deciding whether or not to close facilities due to snow. You can tell employees something along the lines of, “We will make a decision by 9pm, and you can check the Facebook page for info on whether facilities will be closed tomorrow.”
Some types of information may require actually calling people to deliver communication. Although many people regularly don’t answer their phones (especially from unknown numbers), they will likely still listen to a voicemail message.
Depending on your workforce size, you could manually call everyone or you could use a Phone Alerts tool to record and send your message.
Texting is one of the simplest and yet most effective ways to communicate any kind of information.
SMS is the underused low-hanging fruit of communication. (We’ll elaborate more on that a little later.)
As hinted at above, your communication method may be different depending on who you’re actually trying to reach.
Trying to reach office employees? Email or company memos work great.
Trying to reach work-from-home employees? Try email or SMS.
The method you use to communicate may look different depending on the type of person you’re reaching, and the urgency of the information you’re communicating.
Some communication methods, such as email, company memos, and website notices, typically aren’t best to rely on in a time-sensitive situation.
Others, such as on-site announcements, phone calls, and SMS, are better for making sure people are updated immediately.
You can also take advantage of multiple communication tools at once, particularly if your update is urgent.
We briefly mentioned it above, but there’s 1 surprisingly simple tip for communication in manufacturing…
SMS is one of the most widely used ways to communicate and has an astounding 98% read rate.
We all know this intuitively—whether for good or ill, people are constantly glued to their phones. Text messages almost never go unread.
This makes texting one of the most effective ways to get time-sensitive information right under people’s noses.
Bill Mondillo, who we mentioned above, determined this to be true and implemented texting as a way to combat the issue they had run into with their power outage. He realized texting to be a good solution because it was an easy way to reach a large number of people quickly, and didn’t rely on system access (in the case of a power or system outage).
So how can you communicate with manufacturing employees via SMS? Obviously you don’t want to text everyone individually.
Here’s how you can implement texting.
You can text your employees by using an SMS platform like Mobile Text Alerts.
SMS platforms allow you to manage a database of contacts and send mass texts as well as individual texts, depending on your need.
When deciding which SMS platform to use, you want to use one that has all of the features you need. Some examples of features available with SMS platforms that are helpful for communication in manufacturing include:
In addition to considering whether your company needs features like those, you want a platform that is straightforward and easy to set up and use.
You also want to make sure the price is right for your budget.
(You can try a free test account to see if Mobile Text Alerts is right for you.)
Most manufacturing companies will be able to put together some kind of spreadsheet of all the employees that you’re wanting to text.
You can just load that spreadsheet into your SMS platform, and then you’ll be able to send them texts.
When doing this, you can also organize the contact list into groups that make sense for your situation (for example, “Management,” “Technicians,” or “Operators”). Doing that can help you keep your messages organized and relevant.
There are a few questions you’ll want to take into consideration as you’re implementing your SMS plan:
These are the kinds of questions you can think about so that you can determine a plan.
Once you have a plan in place, you’ll be able to take better advantage of a texting system, since you’ll have clear guidelines for using it.
You may also be able to save time by setting up pre-filled text messages ahead of time. That way, when a situation comes up to use the texting system, you can just use your pre-filled message and update it with the information that’s appropriate for the situation.
Here’s an example of a plan that answers the above questions:
Make sure everyone knows what to expect, so that people aren’t confused when your plan starts to get implemented.
This includes making sure your employees know to expect to receive periodic text messages. And it also means making sure your management team knows who is responsible for each element of the plan.
When people know what to expect, they’ll understand that they need to keep an eye on their phones, for example, and they’ll understand why they’re receiving the texts they’re receiving.
Once you have all the pieces in place, you can start implementing your SMS plan. Once you get it going, you may find that some elements don’t make as much sense as you initially thought, so you may need to adjust.
For example, perhaps you find that you need to send texts more often. Perhaps you find that the people you put in charge of sending the texts aren’t available at the right times.
With all of that in mind, you can reevaluate as needed and make changes that make sense.
Armed with all of the above information—and especially with regards to using SMS in your communication toolbelt—it’s time to start transitioning to better communication.
With the tips above, and with SMS, you can have the best communication in your manufacturing business possible. That way, you can have less confusion, more productivity, and an overall better business.
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