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How to Get People Engaged with Software and Actually Use It

You’re well on your way to becoming a lean manufacturer. You’ve been transparent with your employees and communicated your goals. You’ve helped the organization develop great habits and behaviors. Heck, you’ve even selected new software that will help to increase productivity and efficiency in the plant. You’re on top of the world.

Well, until you’re not.

You realize that even though you know this software will improve the plant, no one else seems to really get it.

Successful implementation and continued use of any large project is largely based on two factors:

  • The participation of all team members
  • Good communication

The project you’re trying to implement could be the best project in the world promising great, big benefits but if your team members aren’t on board or communication is not fluid, the project will likely fail. That’s just the hard truth.

It should go without saying, but teamwork and communication are vital in any business, manufacturing included. So, when you want to implement software to keep up with the changing landscape, there are a few key points to consider before beginning the project.

It’s a frustrating scenario when employees aren’t on board or aren’t using a software once it’s implemented, and yet, this is likely a scenario many, many manufacturers have experienced before. So, what do you do when you’re in this situation? How do you get people engaged with and actively using the software?

Implementing manufacturing analytics is not difficult. Typically, it takes about a day to connect machines and start collecting data. In no time, the factory floor will be up and running and you can gain visibility and accountability quickly. The problems arise when employees are not on board with the implementation of any IIoT software, manufacturing analytics included.

It can be quite the challenge, but with the right plan in place, you can get your people on board.

The 3 W’s and Responding to Data Entry

How you get people engaged in the company, let alone with manufacturing software, starts with respect. It’s imperative that you have respect for your people and understand why they would be motivated to use software like Mingo in the first place. It goes back to the idea of the 3 W’s or “What’s in it for me?”

At this point, we probably sound like a broken record, but the very first step is getting your employees to understand what’s in it for them.  People can feel like the company is turning into ‘Big Brother’, watching over their every move every second of the day. They may think you don’t trust them to do a good job or practice good judgment. In order to combat this rumor, refer to the 3 W’s Allison Greco frequently talks about. Yes, you’ve probably already done this step once before, but it never hurts to do it again. And again. And again.

1. Why are we making a change?
2. Why now?
3. What’s in it for me?

Employees really, really need to understand the purpose of this software and how they will benefit.

As a manufacturer, you have a responsibility to your employees, to develop and teach vital skills, to foster growth, to create a progressive environment. When you implement manufacturing analytics, you have to be very transparent about what you’re intending to measure and why to establish a setting that fosters understanding and the desire to learn and improve.

Then, once they’re on board and understand the benefit of the system, the next step is getting them to enter the data you need into the system. Easier said than done, right?

We get it. It’s not always easy to get people to enter data, but hey, it’s a hell of a lot harder to maintain an Excel spreadsheet or a clipboard (and it’s definitely not lean). At least this way, all of the data is accurately maintained and stored in the software. It’s in your best interest to really push the importance of entering data into the system.

If you’re talking about operators working on the lines and machines, you have to get them to understand why it’s important to enter this information, all of which circles back to the 3 W’s. No surprise there, right?

Once they start doing that, the way you keep that group engaged is by reacting to the data entered. You have to share it with your people. In the same way, you share your goals and expectations with us about what you want from Mingo, you can share and explain those same goals and expectations with your employees.

If they’re adding in comments and putting in downtime, but they feel like supervisors or really anyone in management isn’t looking at this data, and actually working to help them and fix things, they’re going to get discouraged. They’re going to become unengaged. Employee experiences matter and this is one example of encouraging good experiences.

Acknowledging and responding to data entered by your front-line workers is vital.

You have to use the data that they’re collecting, and they have to understand and see that you’re actually using it. You have to react to it. This is the magical formula to keeping people engaged.

Why is it Important to be Transparent?

Let’s consider an example. If you have a lot of variability in quality or production rates on different machines (or, even on those machines that are making the same product), you are probably wanting to use Mingo to figure out why. Those insights can provide a lot of data, true, but you can also learn why Jimmy on Machine #2 is doing well and Liz on Machine #4 isn’t. Then, use that knowledge to teach Liz on Machine #4 the same skills and tactics so she’s both trained and empowered to increase her numbers.

The example highlights the benefits of software like Mingo.

  • Learn from one another.
  • Apply those learnings across the plant.
  • Enable the success of all of your employees, not just a few high performers.

Manufacturing analytics can be used as a tool to monitor the process and understand where the inefficiencies to then help employees improve. It’s designed to empower your employees with key insight and learning techniques, not negatively affect morale or job security.

That is a clear distinction that needs to be made quickly and clearly to your employees from the start – no one wants to think their livelihood is at risk.

In addition to the education benefits, analytics can help your employees be more successful because they can communicate clearly what the goals are, how they’re being held accountable to those goals, and where they stand against those goals at any given time.

If there is a real problem, real data can tell you where it’s coming from, rather than causing fingerpointing and confusion. (See: Zen and Manufacturing Analytics, a blog about creating harmony on the plant floor.)

Context is Important

The other important thing in getting employees engaged with software like Mingo is that you have to provide information that is meaningful to them.

For example, if you just throw up an OEE number in front of an operator, it isn’t very meaningful because there isn’t any context. What does OEE indicate? Give them something they can use and understand to tell them how they’re doing today, right at the moment. This will also keep people engaged and interacting with the system because it directly affects their performance.

There has to be something in it for them (hey, this is another reference to those 3 W’s). Front-line employees want and need to understand if they’re going to complete work on time or if they’re having a good or bad day. They want to know when they should be asking for help.

They want to be engaged with the system once they understand the benefit.

A good example is if someone is 30 minutes behind. If they didn’t have a software system in front of them with contextualized data, they wouldn’t really be aware of the fact that they were behind schedule. But, if they’re actively engaged with a system like Mingo, numbers that provide meaningful context will tell the operator it’s time to raise their hand and ask for help or point out a problem on the line. If they know they’re going to be late and it’s going to affect someone downstream, it’s important to know this and acknowledge it.

Then, help is provided to increase performance or problems are solved in time to meet the production deadline.

Knowing where you stand at any given time is important.

Make the Data Visual

The final piece of the puzzle relies on visual management. To drive home the idea of contextualized data that provides input to the operators and is both acknowledged and reacted to by management, visual tools commonly found in a visual factory are incredibly beneficial.

You need to make the data visual.

To create cohesion among the company and employees, we firmly believe there are 3 key things that enable people to be successful with manufacturing analytics.

1. Place scoreboards on the plant floor and in employee common areas.

2. Use the dashboard subscriptions to communicate daily or weekly production numbers.

3. Review the numbers as a team in daily or weekly production meetings.

Scoreboards are a great asset. They show the data everywhere there is a scoreboard, whether that’s on the floor or in a breakroom. People know you’re looking at the data when it’s easy for everyone to see.

Then, you should use the data in daily standup meetings. This is just another way of proving you’re not only using the data but learning from what’s happening on the floor. Plus, daily production meetings provide immense benefit in keeping employees engaged in the organization as a whole, actively contributing to a healthy culture.

Further up the chain, the data collected has to provide valuable information, too. At the top of the ladder, the C-suite people need to see that this system is being used. And not only is it being used, but it’s encouraging engagement with employees in addition to providing valuable insight into potential areas for improvement. This not only provides them with the ability to lead the organization effectively but to also use the data at every step of the way, from the sensor to the boardroom.

Essentially, it has to be useful, otherwise, no one is going to quote “engage” with it.

Encourage the Plant to Engage and Use Mingo

This methodology of engagement incorporating the 3 W’s, contextualized data, and visual data management applies at every level of the organization, from the operators to the production supervisors to the C-suite. It’s all very similar in structure because, at the end of the day, it ties back to the 3 W’s and making sure data is used and reacted to.

Too few companies consider the necessary partnership between people and data. The two work hand in hand and you’d be making a mistake to think one can be without the other. It’s all of our responsibility to enable our employees to be the best they can be. Sounds cliché? Maybe. But, the point is that our employees are the backbone to successfully running the company and we must treat them as so. Give employees the power to learn, help one another, and be successful with real-time data.

Implement software with a clear understanding of the goals and how to achieve those goals and you’ll establish a unified organization that works together to contribute to the company’s success.

We’ve all heard this saying a time or two, most likely in little league sports, but there’s truth to it – “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”

That’s really it. It’s that simple.

Picture of Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of Mingo. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights. Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.