4 reasons manufacturers need smartphones on their production floor

If you made a list of the things most manufacturers don’t want to see anywhere near their production floor, smartphones would probably be at, or at least near, the very top of it.

After all, they let you watch videos, play games, chat with friends. They’re pretty much the ultimate distraction.

And distracted workers are the first step toward the kind of quality and safety problems that no manufacturer wants to have to deal with.

So your goal should essentially be to stop at nothing to keep those lousy, stinking things as far away from your facility as possible, right?

Not so fast, says John Mills, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Rideau Recognition Solutions.

In his post on IndustryWeek.com, Mills pointed out that trying to keep smartphones out of the workplace is like trying to bail out a sinking ship with a coffee mug. If the coffee mug were also full of holes, that is.

No matter how many calories we burn trying to keep them out, it just isn’t going to happen. Smartphones are here to stay.

On your side

We’ve talked before about how to make employees’ smartphones work for you.

Rather than keep fighting them, Mills offers four more suggestions on how manufacturers can put those pesky mobile devices to work for them:

  • Instant recognition. Workers want feedback and recognition, some of them even thrive on it. When someone has a success story, don’t wait. Use your smartphone to start spreading it around your company through something like a quick blog post. This instant recognition for a job well done can fuel even more success stories in the future. Plus, most research shows feedback and praise is always more effective when it comes hot on the heels of the action that lead to it. The longer you wait, the less effective it can be.
  • Coordinate schedules. You’ve got plenty of moving parts to keep track of, both inside your own facility and outside in terms of your supply chain. So put your workers’ smartphone calendar functions to good use. Use these to coordinate schedules, manage deadlines and essentially just keep everyone on the same page. This way, everyone will know what’s expected of them. You can even take this idea one step further by posting the schedules online. That will let workers see where their tasks fit into the bigger picture, and what everyone else is up to.      
  • Fast access to information. Going paperless has become the name of the game in nearly every industry. Need to double check a product spec? Let workers pull out their phone instead of having to jump off the line and track down the answer. Having all of this information right in their hip pocket – or back pocket – keeps workers from spending valuable time finding the info in paper form – or, for that matter, finding the nearest desktop.
  • Speed up reaction time. If something goes wrong, smartphones can be a good tool to get the word out, shut down the line, etc. The instant notification they provide can help keep a potentially dangerous product out of customers’ hands.

Of course, just because there are some upsides to having smartphones are on your production floor, doesn’t mean anything goes.

You still need to have rules in place to keep employees focused on the task at hand and prevent those quality and safety issues we mentioned earlier.

Keep them in check

When it comes to creating a policy for smartphones and your workplace, here are four elements you’ll probably want to include:

  • Emphasize that smartphones are to be used primarily for business purposes
  • Lay out a list of activities that are unacceptable or off-limits, i.e. playing games, listening to music, etc.
  • Provide guidelines for acceptable ways to use the Internet on their phone (what kinds of websites are OK), and
  • Spell out the consequences of misusing or abusing smartphones. Let workers know that it’s not a right, but a privilege. If they goof off, they ruin it for everyone.

Collaboration is a good thing – you just want to make sure workers are only collaborating with the right people.

So once you have the basic rules established, it’s important to work with IT to make sure your company’s data stays safe.

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