Converting Factory Communication into Employee KnowledgeCommunication is generally a good thing. Effective communication is better. Even better still is when effective communication becomes useable knowledge.
Given the current drive to Industry 4.0 and the smart factory, it’s important to remember the role humans play in making it happen.
Let’s face it, there really is nothing better than face to face communication. So much can be conveyed in the nuance of facial expression, tone of voice, body language and the rest. So why even talk about the 0’s and 1’s of digital communication?
In this article we’ll discuss the benefits of having a digital log book. What is it? Why take the time to do this? How can you get started?
What is a Digital Logbook, Anyways?
Old school, (okay, so I’m older, chill a sec), puts a journal at a workstation and requires key events to be written as the shift progresses. On good days, leadership reads it and takes some action. It’s better than nothing, but still missing key characteristics of what a digital version can provide.
The storing of the information isn’t so much the problem. It’s there and will stay in the journal. The gap is in the accessibility and ability to analyze the data. A digital environment helps fix that.
In digital format, it is possible to add labels that can be searched, filtered and ultimately support your business objectives – for example shift changeover, maintenance, or a Kaizen event. Categorizing information in this way, you can analyze trends and find what you want, when you want it.
But taking paper and converting it to electrons is not enough. If it is not aggregated and accessible, there will be no gain in useable knowledge. And accessibility in the context of factory workers requires us to connect them, digitally – provide a platform and devices that are available to all who can make use of the information.
So essentially a digital log book is a searchable data base of the important events occurring in your factory.
Why take the time?
When thinking about a digital logbook, we’re really targeting a sub-set of factory communication. The focus is on those tidbits of information that lean toward action or provide information. In the former the goal is to positively impact behavior improving safety, quality and performance; in the latter, to provide a conduit for accurate messaging (no game of telephone).
Face to face communication is great, but not always retained. Notably, it’s not easy to share. Allow me to add: face to face communication is not always possible.
In a digital environment, a worker can share a safety observation, record a quality issue or identify a problem, quickly add relevant labels which facilitate future retrieval and publish that for wide access.
I like to think of this as making the information available across space and time. Available now across the rather large manufacturing floors, or to multiple plants for that matter. And maybe more interesting, across time. Where individuals who may never actually meet, now have access to important information that occurred in their work space in the prior shift.
Why? A conversation between two people can be a puff of smoke. An e-mail may not be shared. But creating a digital log that captures and centralizes important data is how one-to-one communication on the factory floor can convert to collective employee knowledge.
How to get started?
First, think a bit about your current communication process. Sketch a map of how this works in your plant now. I was in a plant where the basics of this was essentially a CI version of a suggestion box. Regardless, identify what’s there now.
Second, do a bit of homework to find a platform that will get you close to where you want to be. It should be easy to use, allow the quick addition of meaningful labels, and be easy to search and filter.
I would add bonus points for rich content like pics and videos, and the ability to comment and create a conversation around given items. This helps to create solutions and understanding. New tools are clearly needed to make this possible. What sort of device will make it possible for workers to share and receive updates? Tablets are much more common on plant floors now, as are cell phones in some cases. Many times, workstations have a computer that might be the best choice. Is all cases, connectivity through wifi needs to be considered as well.
Poka is a platform that includes all of the attributes discussed. It has some additional benefits that tie the digital log book aspects to driving training and other skill development. In this context, you’d be well-served using it to jump start your digital tracking.
It’s a digital wrap.
Of course, you’ll be thoughtful about what you do. Implementing a digital log book will require the energy to set up and engage your people.
The benefit is there. As learning occurs and is shared more rapidly, improvement follows.
Bill Blank is an implementation specialist on Poka's Professional Services team. He has a broad background across various company functions and loves manufacturing. He thrives on meeting people in the field and helping them make transformations with Poka.