The Connected Worker Guide

How to Transform Manufacturing Operations

Connected Employees are More Engaged and Motivated

The manufacturing industry is facing a new reality: Their workforce is aging. There are 2.6 million workers nearing retirement within the next decade, but younger generations aren’t as excited about a career in manufacturing, which means there will be fewer qualified workers to fill open positions. 

To overcome this impending labor shortage, manufacturers must work to recruit and retain workers of all ages using tools and techniques designed to keep employees engaged and to help them continuously evolve their skills. Technology is integral to all of these, empowering workers to communicate with their teams and solve problems collectively.

Which brings us to the connected worker. Digital technology can connect frontline workers so that they feel heard and valued and can help manufacturers foster strong, productive relationships within teams. This is the key to not only manufacturing profitability and growth, but also to turning your facility into a positive working environment where talented employees want to stay for the long-term. 

What Is a Connected Worker?

A connected worker uses digital technology to communicate and collaborate with other employees in their work environment. Instant communication across the factory floor opens the door for workers to build professional relationships and friendships, share ideas, learn new techniques and work smarter.

Why Is It Important for Manufacturing Workers to Stay Connected?

The manufacturing industry is at a pivotal point. Between retirement and job hopping, manufacturers can expect a shortfall of 2.1 million skilled jobs by 2030. Every time a frontline worker leaves, the company loses money in time and recruiting costs.

On the other hand, companies that can foster positive relationships between employees stand to benefit. Companies with high employee satisfaction rates have stock prices that outperform other firms by 2.3 to 3.8% per year.

Every lost frontline worker costs manufacturers an average of $12,876. But you can reduce turnover by implementing the four pillars of success in this eBook.

The Fallout of Disconnected Workers

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have seen higher churn rates, and labor shortages of up to 500,000 workers are anticipated to cost the industry $1 trillion by 2030. Unfilled positions lead to a higher likelihood of plant shutdowns or low production, ultimately hitting bottom-line profits.

Even armed with this knowledge, manufacturers can’t just hire their way out of the current labor crisis. Companies have tried to entice new workers with benefits like sign-on bonuses. But bonuses are not enough to keep newcomers from jumping from job to job. It’s not just about the money, it’s about non-monetary perks like better tools, technology, and having management that is willing to listen to staff.

Over half of manufacturing employees — 56% — say they’re looking for a job in the next 12 months, yet six out of 10 employees say they’d take a pay cut to work at a more technology-driven or sustainable factory. Some workplace issues contributing to the exodus include:

  • Current processes are filled with inefficiencies and shift handovers don’t exist, so what happened on the last shift is lost.
  • Many operators don’t have a digital identity or an efficient way to communicate. If they have a problem, they can only escalate it to a supervisor and hope it gets resolved.
  • Downtime is inefficiently logged on paper and there’s a lack of feedback on hitting production targets or not, creating a blame game when things go wrong.
  • Hourly KPI performance is written on whiteboards and the data is stale, with no context or action. Standards are paper-based and siloed away in 3-ring binders, while knowledge is tribal and never shared.
  • Quality checks are paper-based and reviewing results takes hours, often not finishing until the next day.
  • The maintenance team is the only team responsible for equipment care and never has time to finish the work.
  • The factory manager is frustrated by a lack of ownership and engagement, while teams are stuck working in silos and putting out fires throughout the day.

Follow The 5 Steps In This Guide Today to Engage Your Workers & Create a Strong Talent Pipeline.

9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Connect Workers

Start connecting your workers today with these 9 strategies.

1. Empower them to solve problems together

While solo or management-driven problem-solving is often necessary in a pinch, workers will feel far more successful and connected when they tackle challenges with their peers. It helps them think outside the box and remember that support is all around them. Encourage your frontline teams to address solutions together and dig into the root cause to prevent a reoccurrence.

2. Facilitate digital, integrated cross-team communication

Plants that have a digitally connected workforce solution see a 71% increase in communication. This results in connected employees who feel empowered to speak up, regardless of their position in the organization. Research digital solutions that can deliver these outcomes for your team, or use existing company technology to make it happen.

3. Celebrate individual and team achievements

Make an effort to celebrate everyone’s individual and team achievements. Internal recognition fosters a more positive work environment, and employees will experience a 73% increase in feeling competent and recognized at work, leading to an increase in employee retention.

4. Create worker fluidity with automated tools

Build a culture of continuous improvement with self-serve training tools so workers can take the initiative to cross-train and upskill. This helps frontline employees complete more tasks, creating a self-fulfilling cycle of employment, action and success.

5. Offer long-term employee benefits to reduce turnover

Employee turnover disrupts worker connections. You can foster better relationships within teams if those teams work together for long periods. Entice workers to stay by offering long-term benefits like learning opportunities and career advancement, instead of relying on short-term perks like bonuses.

6. Encourage new ideas and reward them publicly

Digital connection helps eliminate physical, language and organizational barriers, making it easier to share ideas up, down and horizontally. Ensure that good ideas are implemented no matter where they come from.

7. Document tribal knowledge, ideas and suggestions so they are easy to find

Digitally collecting and storing ideas and suggestions allows frontline workers to participate in the conversation and easily share knowledge with teammates and other departments. With devices that have the ability to easily record videos and document processes, employees can share tips and tools to do their jobs better — to the benefit of all employees and the company.

8. Conduct regular shop floor huddles, handovers and Kaizens

Cross-functional frontline teams collaborate through regular huddles, handovers and Kaizens. These meetings help teams develop a cycle where they solve problems together, build trust through the shared experience and improve their problem-solving skills.

9. Buddy-up during new employee onboarding

In a connected workforce, new employees are supported by experienced workers who know their jobs well and can help them develop their skills. Assigning work buddies to new hires helps them build competence and confidence quickly so they feel comfortable in their new position and engaged with their new coworkers.

Engaged workers drive improvements at factories. Plants that are 90 days post-deployment of QAD Redzone see a 74% increase in engagement, a 29% increase in overall equipment effectiveness, and a 32% decrease in employee turnover. Read more about how to get these results for your plant:

Download a PDF – 9 Strategies to Connect Your Workers

Compliance - Gorilla Glue

What Is a Connected Worker Platform?

A connected worker platform is a digital software tool that assists workers in staying engaged and building productivity and efficiency on the job. The technology can have a number of valuable features, including user-friendly interfaces, cloud-based collaboration tools, wearable devices, remote sensors and integration with mobile device applications. Evaluate your needs and choose the platform and features that helps your organization achieve its goals.

Connected Worker Platform Checklist — 7 Must-Haves

The right connected worker platform can help solve your organization’s problems with unengaged employees. Here are seven elements your connected worker platform must have to keep your workers connected and motivated.

1. Digital Identities

Dedicated digital identities for all frontline workers so they have a presence and voice on the team. These devices should connect everyone via chats, video calls, @mentions and more.

2. Video Resources

Video recording capability for shift handovers, predictive maintenance and local knowledge sharing — this can become the YouTube for the factory

3. Operations Page

An Ops page that provides all the context operators need to make good decisions.

4. Factory Screens

Large screen displays on the factory floor that detail employee performance, big wins and welcome messages for new hires.

5. Edge Devices

Edge devices with real-time data, enabling production, quality and maintenance teams to conduct huddles, collaborate to solve problems and make decisions.

6. Educational Modules

Educational modules such as a real-time digital skills matrices, learning packs and mentors-on-demand to allow teams to cross-train and upskill, so they can have a hand in their own career progression.

7. Automated Compliance

Digital compliance process documents that can be automated to eliminate paper and busy work, leaving more time for team building.

The 2023 Productivity Benchmark Report compiles performance data from 1,000 factories around the world. This fifth biennial report details how these facilities achieved significant productivity with QAD Redzone in as few as 90 days. See how they did it:

Download a PDF Version of our 7 Must-Have Platform Features

Transform Your Operation with a Connected Workforce

Connected workers are engaged, committed to the job and likely to stay for the long term. Using the suggestions and steps in this article, some teams reduce turnover by 59%. And while the effects of that reduction on profitability are clear, it also simply creates a work environment where people are happy, motivated and involved.

Just think about what your factory and workforce could achieve with QAD Redzone. Read more about amazing frontline workers in Factory Miracles, our digital magazine honoring frontline worker accomplishments.