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6 Ways to Build a Positive & Productive Manufacturing Culture

In manufacturing, large groups of very diverse people have to work cooperatively to create as much output as possible while still adhering to appropriate quality standards. Because of this, a manufacturing culture that promotes cooperation and self-actualization is crucial for an organization’s success.

But how do you go about doing so? Unfortunately, many managers’ first instinct is to beat the drum in an ultimately vain attempt to force their workers into greater productivity. This mentality and attendant lack of concern for employee welfare are leading to a situation where a projected 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled between now and 2028. This isn’t the first time we’ve written about the current situation.

Once you realize the problem exists, the question becomes obvious. How do you increase efficiency in a way that actually works while encouraging worker retention at the same time? The answer is both simple and complex: foster a positive and productive company culture. While the concept is easy enough to understand, many choose to either ignore it or don’t know how to facilitate its effective implementation. This is a shame since positive company culture has been conclusively linked to increased productivity and customer satisfaction, reduced turnover and higher levels of innovation.

Below we’ll discuss the current state of manufacturing culture and how it can be improved by emphasizing frontline worker engagement and happiness, including actionable steps you can take to immediately enact positive change.


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The Current State of Manufacturing Culture

We all know the manufacturing industry is at a crossroads. With an aging workforce retiring at an alarming rate, many manufacturers are naturally attempting to recruit from younger generations. However, most run into difficulty doing so, and the culprit is clear: old-fashioned manufacturing culture clashing with newer value systems. This surfaces in a variety of ways:

Little-To-No Flexibility

  • Many younger workers value intangibles like work/life balance and personal autonomy far more than their boomer predecessors.
  • This stands starkly at odds with the more traditional model of manufacturing culture, which typically shuns perceived “perks” like flexible scheduling and PTO.

Lack of Communication

  • Communication between management and frontline employees can often be nearly nonexistent, creating an information vacuum on the shopfloor that leads to poor performance and morale.
  • In the absence of the steady, reliable dissemination of information from the top of the org chart all the way down, rumors and half-truths can take hold.

Minimal Recognition

  • Psychology 101 tells us positive reinforcement is the most effective way to create a lasting habit, and this principle applies to the workplace as much as anywhere else.
  • While many employers in other industries have embraced this concept, manufacturing culture continues to lag behind in the type of employee recognition initiatives today’s workers expect.

Inadequate Training

  • Without proper training, workers can feel disoriented and uncared for, or, essentially, like just another body.
  • None of which even begins to mention the health and safety risks poorly trained manufacturing workers pose.

Without solving these issues, aligning generational and cultural expectations between management and frontline workers will continue to be problematic.

The Importance of a Positive & Productive Manufacturing Culture

A positive and productive manufacturing culture has always been a key driver of success. But what that culture needs to look like has changed drastically over the years as younger generations continue to enter the workforce. In order to create a profitable business, you need a motivated and invested workforce, and to get a motivated and invested workforce, you need a positive and productive manufacturing culture. Once this culture has been put in place, certain benefits become readily apparent:

Lower Employee Turnover

  • To stay in a job, today’s manufacturing workers want better hours, PTO and higher levels of job autonomy, among other soft factors.
  • In one major survey, increased PTO was the top consideration among the estimated 50% of factory workers projected to leave their current jobs during 2023.

Increased Productivity

  • When communication flows properly, everyone has the information they need to succeed. This allows for greater efficiencies and increased productivity.
  • A meta-analysis of employee engagement data by Gallup shows that the most highly engaged teams are 14% more effective than those with the lowest engagement scores.

Higher Customer Satisfaction Levels

  • Happier, more engaged workers tend to perform better at their jobs, leading to fewer mistakes and the consistent exceeding of customer expectations.
  • The Harvard Business Review found statistically significant evidence linking higher Glassdoor reviews for manufacturing companies to overall better customer satisfaction scores.

A positive and productive manufacturing culture can truly transform how a business operates.

5 Ways to Improve Manufacturing Culture

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of a strong manufacturing culture, the question becomes, how do you implement one in your organization? While there are a variety of ways you can get started, we recommend beginning in these crucial areas:

Encourage Open Communication

  • Open communication between all levels of a company ensures that everyone has, at minimum, the information they need to succeed at their job.
  • In fact, by erring on the side of overcommunication, you can create the conditions necessary for increased innovation from both the frontline and management.

Invest in Employee Training

  • At its most basic level, when first training an employee, the better you do, the fewer mistakes they’ll make, thereby increasing efficiency and safety.
  • However, training shouldn’t be confined to onboarding. By giving employees consistent learning and development opportunities, you not only increase their efficacy but their engagement as well.

Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement

  • Make it everyone’s mission to continuously work toward the improvement of both the self and the company as a whole.
  • This mindset of ongoing growth and enhancement is a key part of ensuring the long-term viability of your organization.

Recognize and Reward Employee Achievements

  • At least in the broad strokes, humans are pretty easy to figure out. On the whole, we like to be rewarded for our achievements because, simply put, it makes us feel good.
  • Beyond the person receiving the reward, others will take note of this recognition and strive to attain it themselves.

Prioritize Workplace Safety

  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs says we put the highest priority on things that affect our physical well-being. Feeling physically safe in the workplace is of the utmost importance to most manufacturing employees, particularly due to the many dangers often present.
  • Accidents also shut down production lines, eating into profits.

By following these five suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to creating the manufacturing culture you desire. But these five alone aren’t enough. There’s a sixth factor that overlays and helps facilitate the others: technology.

The Role of Technology in Enhancing Manufacturing Culture

With 93% of millennials listing up-to-date technology as an important factor when choosing their next position, technological relevancy can no longer be ignored or put off. Technology, when done right and properly implemented, can help create a more unified and positive company culture by facilitating many beneficial processes:

Communication

  • Getting information where it needs to be has never been easier, thanks to the advent of technologies such as chats, video calls, @mentions and more.
  • QAD Redzone incorporates all of these technologies and others to ensure information flows smoothly in both directions, thereby empowering employees at all levels to perform their best.

Data Collection

  • We live in a data-driven world, and it’s not hard to see why. The more data at your disposal, the easier it is to see what’s working and what isn’t before making any future adjustments.
  • By providing one comprehensive enterprise-level solution for clients, QAD Redzone collects data from all your locations to show you where you’re performing well, areas of inefficiency that might require some attention and everything in between.

Process Optimization

  • Now that you have the data, it’s time to start the analysis in order to optimize your processes and increase productivity.
  • QAD Redzone has propelled manufacturers to an average 20% increase in productivity through process optimizations informed by our software.

Conclusion

It’s almost impossible to downplay the importance of a positive and productive manufacturing culture. Factories are failing to hire new employees at a replacement rate for retiring baby boomers. Even when they do manage to fill schedules, mismatches in culture and expectations between management and frontline workers can result in tense, less-than-productive environments. That’s why it’s so important to take these recommendations to heart.

While there are many steps to take in order to fully transform a bad workplace culture into a good one, the secret sauce, at least today, is technology. QAD Redzone, with its agile software solution and experienced coaching force, opens new ways for manufacturers to create a positive and productive manufacturing culture.

2023 Productivity Benchmark Report

1,000 Factories’ Productivity Data: The Largest Dataset of Its Kind ...

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