Shop Floor Management - Communication

The art of effective listening to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.
– James Cash Penney, an American Businessman
Mistakes and errors due to lack of clear communication can turn out expensive on the shop floor. Poor communication also leads to wastage of man hours, machine time and above all the efforts. The communication gaps should be ideally zero on the shop floor as communication plays an important role in obtaining high operational performance and quality management.

Why Does Shop Floor Communication Matter?

The workers and other staff members on the shop floor work in a cooperative environment of humans and machines. Thus, the staff not only exchanges the information, but also their feelings. The tasks on the shop floor majorly require a collective effort of the manager, supervisor, the workers and machinery. Hence clear communication and accessing is a much-required information which is important among them.
In addition to all the above-mentioned factors, poor communication on the shop floor can lead to loss of business property, efforts and time. It can also lead to the loss of future business. Considering all these risks, it is certain that the communication on the shop floor matters.

Type of Communication on a Shop Floor

There are two typical types of communication taking place on the shop floor −
  • Machine to Machine (M2M) − It is provided by automation controllers to enable efficient process execution at machine level. In this type of communication, the devices communicate directly to each other using wired or wireless communication channel and dedicated protocols. Sensors and relays, database, application software and network enables this sort of communication. Latest M2M communication systems also transmits data to the personal mobile devices of the managing staff.
  • Machine to Business (M2B) or Machine to Enterprise (M2E) − It is provided by automation controllers to enable efficient process execution at management or enterprise level. In this case, the application software at the vendor side accesses shop floor data stored on the database without getting into the complex shop floor processes.

A Manager’s Role in Shop Floor Staff Communication

The shop floor manager needs to communicate to the shop floor staff to know the pulse of production. A shop floor manager must do the following things for better rapport with the staff −
  • Find out time for Gemba walk, regardless of all other numerous activities.
  • Remain accessible and reachable for the subordinates.
  • Visit the work stations and assembly lines to observe what is happening in real.
  • Bring the staff members to speak about their problems.
  • Build trust of workers and other staff members.
  • Double the listening time with respect to the talking time and show genuine interest in what they talk.
  • Study others’ body language; gestures and expressions because even if a person stops talking, he cannot stop behaving.
  • Be cordial to the staff members and workers.
  • Train the workers and other staff members regularly to let them learn changes in technology, processes, and the work environment.
  • Meet the subordinates weekly for some time for informing updates, discussing issues and brainstorming.
Staff Communication

Shop Floor Etiquettes for Managers

Manners and etiquettes can boost the morale of shop floor personnel as well as bring consistent success in lean manufacturing process. The following etiquettes are important for the shop floor managers −
  • Treating other staff members respectfully. Not looking them down upon irrespective of their junior rank.
  • Announcing regular or special visits.
  • Keeping the hands out of pockets always while Gemba walking.
  • Attending genuinely and empathetically to what subordinates say.
  • Letting the subordinates know that their input to management is valuable.
  • Understanding the local and the official language, and their uses as per the requirement.
  • Returning telephone calls and emails as soon as possible for complete communication.
  • Speaking clearly and if required a little loudly to be audible in the shop floor’s noisy environment.
  • Appreciating the workers and subordinates in work for their ideas and hard work.
  • Removing friction among workers and other staff members by allowing them to access the right information.
  • Thanking the staff, wishing them good day and showing gratitude for their patience and cooperation through some special visits.
  • Not belittling someone’s suggestions or opinions.
  • Not drinking or eating while on the shop floor.
  • Not touching anything unless the manager knows what he/she is doing.
  • Not interrupting the speaker.
  • Not interfering the ongoing task. Not overshadowing the operations taking place due to your presence.
  • Not taking pictures or videos without permission of higher authorities or without prior notice to the shop floor personnel.

Shop Floor Etiquettes for Supervisors and Workers

The supervisors and workers should follow the etiquettes given below −
  • Arriving at the shop floor on time and sober.
  • Wearing safety equipment while being on the job.
  • Keeping the shop floor tools, equipment, and other property at the dedicated area before leaving the shop floor.
  • Not wearing lose garments for safety purpose.
  • Not bringing drinks or food on the shop floor.
  • Not chewing gum or tobacco on the shop floor.
  • Not taking any mobile property on the shop floor without permission of the concerned authorities.

Shop Floor Communication Systems

Here are some popular communication systems on the shop floor −

MConnect

It is an open-source royalty-free manufacturing protocol designed to connect manufacturing equipment on the shop floor to the outside world easily. It uses well-established Internet standards such as HTTP and XML.

NC Simulation

It creates shop floor documents and reports automatically in HTML and PDF formats during simulation. The 3D reviewer tool of this is very helpful while communicating on the shop floor as well as with the vendors and customers.

Shop Floor Connect

It provides a direct connection to each machine in the shop. It has elegant touchscreen easy user interface. The shop floor operators can access data directly by locating the correct data files required for production such as CNC programs, lists of tools and drawings.

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