Tips to Help Manufacturers Embrace Remote Workers

Has your company shifted to remote work for all employees whose job functions do not require them to be physically present? Certainly, the pandemic has changed the location of work for many employees, including in the traditional in-person world of manufacturing. Also, per a recent Gartner poll showed that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic.

Manufacturers have had to adjust to remote work quickly. Unifize recently shared several tactics summarized below on how manufacturers can, in fact, embrace remote work and mitigate some of the risks of COVID-19 to their business and employees’ welfare.

If people can work-from-home, they should! In most manufacturing companies, non-production staff is anywhere between 25% and 50% of total headcount, meaning that manufacturers can instantly enable remote work for these employees. This is not only safer for those employees who are working from home but also safer for those that need to remain at the production facility. Therefore, if you are in a leadership position, you must first acknowledge this and work through the remaining steps to implement change.

Work on changing perceptions. Enabling remote work for office employees is likely to require a change in attitude across the organization. The following is a list of objections that you may encounter while trying to making this shift, along with some recommendations on how to respond to them:

  • We are naturally more technophobic than people in other industries: Find and evaluate cloud-based digital tools that are easy to implement and use by all employees.

  • We believe that engineering problems are best solved on the shop floor: Photo and video technology can be leveraged to resolve the vast majority of these problems.

  • We prefer that our teams sit closely together and that people just ‘walk over’ to each other to get help and collaborate: The internet has enabled high-speed, real time communication and collaboration that has mitigated this need, along with delivering a host of other benefits including better traceability.

  • We mistrust cloud-based technology for security reasons: In practice, your data is likely to be far more secure when it is hosted on the cloud. Today, more than 66% of manufacturers now use cloud technology.

  • We prevent our employees from accessing communication tools on their shop floor: You need to think hard about the trade-off between enabling better collaboration and policing your employees.

Use digital tools to enable remote work: There are a large number of tools available for you to use. It’s important that you evaluate these thoroughly and get buy-in from your team. The following is a list to get you started:

  • Video Conferencing: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Webex, Skype and MS Teams

  • Project management: Microsoft Project: Full-featured and extensive but difficult to use; Asana:  Enables hierarchies of tasks but isn’t built for manufacturers; Trello:  Great lightweight tool for kanban and basic projects; Airtable:  Good for advanced linking of complex databases

  • Real-time chat: Whatsapp/iMessage: Free and ubiquitous; Slack:  Made for developers and great for small teams; Microsoft Teams:  Free for up to 200 users and integrates well with Office

  • Cloud-based office tools: Google Docs: Easy to use and free if you also use Gmail; Office 365:  Full-featured and more suited to the enterprise

As Gartner’s survey predicts, remote work will likely remain a part of the model for even many manufacturers post-pandemic. Coming up with a plan to allow remote work in the long term and even embrace it will be important for manufacturers to remain competitive and grow.

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