What’s the most important resource in your factory? Some manufacturing directors will point immediately to a large and expensive piece of vital equipment, or perhaps the factory’s ‘bottleneck’ constraint. But they’re wrong: it’s the workforce. For without a fully-engaged manufacturing workforce, any factory faces an uphill struggle if it’s to consistently deliver high levels of customer satisfaction, quality, productivity, and due date performance.Yet achieving that fully-engaged manufacturing workforce is harder than it looks. Even though the world of work has changed enormously from the confrontational labour relations of the 1960s and 1970s, winning the battle for hearts and minds takes time, effort, and patience.
And in most manufacturing environments, there’s quite some way to go to build a fully-engaged workforce. Research from Gallup, for instance, suggests that typically, just 13% of employees—a little over one person in ten—are fully-engaged with their job.
So how best to build that fully-engaged manufacturing workforce? Time and again, experts point to three key factors.
The fully-engaged manufacturing workforce is involved
People aren’t machines. To be fully-engaged, they like to feel a part of the process, and be involved in decisions about it.
Look at the success of initiatives such as Total Quality, kaizen, continuous improvement, or Six Sigma, and in each case you’ll find groups of employees working to together to add to management’s understanding of issues, and helping to point to solutions.
The same thing applies on a day to day basis, quite outside those initiatives. A big rush job? An important customer visit? A special order for an important customer?
Get people on side, let them feel part of what’s going on, and watch your fully-engaged manufacturing workforce deliver the goods.
The fully-engaged manufacturing workforce is informed
People like to know what’s going on. And that’s especially true of the engaged workforce. Without an understanding of the facts, it’s difficult for them to apply themselves to the fullest extent.
Fortunately, ERP systems and manufacturing MRP systems make it easy to generate that information.
On-time order statistics, quality statistics, productivity statistics, output statistics, individual cell or assembly line statistics—it’s not difficult to pull out such information, and present it on a handful of charts, located on factory-floor noticeboards.
And experience shows that when in possession of the full facts, the fully-engaged manufacturing workforce will usually act accordingly.
The fully-engaged manufacturing workforce is appreciated
Recognition matters. People like to be appreciated, and they like to feel that when they go the extra mile, it’s noticed.
And don’t think that means lavish pay awards or bonuses. Quite the reverse. Often, it’s the heartfelt word of thanks that is most appreciated, or the box of chocolates or similar small gift.
Has a production cell beaten its own previous output record? Was a rush job despatched on schedule—or sooner? Has there been a significant improvement in quality, productivity, or due date performance statistics?
When building the fully-engaged manufacturing workforce, simple gestures of appreciation often go a long way!