The Next “Lean Process” in Manufacturing is the People.. The untold HR Success Story

We recently completed a project with a world leader in Vinyl Siding Manufacturing. 

They have multiple locations including plants, warehouses, distribution, corporate offices, etc… the whole package.  What was really interesting to note was how the company communicated before the introduction of Digital Signage screens. Opposed to some other industries, Manufacturing has consistently been forced to “Lean” out over the past 30 years  due to a variety of well known factors.  Today’s “Lean” or even “Striving for Lean” companies are usually a bulk of shift-based staff partnered with an even leaner management team. Money (or Capital in this case) is often directed to the high cost of consistently upgrading machinery and technology, which seems to be a never ending cycle.  This doesn’t leave a lot of room for wage increases, improved benefits or even a luxury cafeteria. Well, unless you visit the Apple plant.

The fascinating challenge in 2015 Manufacturing is that technology will continue to improve the supply chain and lean out the processes for maximal optimization. What technology doesn’t count for in the lean process is the human engagement factor. How showing up for a shift tired, frustrated or disengaged can impact the results. How starting late after lunch, not volunteering for overtime or always looking for better conditions can impact my attitude.  By default the Human Engagement Factor becomes a huge variable in maintaining consistent and productive operations. Hence, the all-encompassing HR Team… Which in some cases is not very deep.

Manufacturing Facilities

There are many times I visit a Manufacturing partner and will be introduced to the 1 or 2 people in HR responsible for 385 employees. That includes all compensation, hiring, behaviour, safety and training.  Let alone a company with 2400 staff.

What often happens is that the walls of lunchroom’s, entrances, and staff hallways get filled with page after page of communication pieces:

  • New Job Openings
  • Performance Review Processes
  • Safety Reminders
  • Summer Golf Tournament images
  • Motivational wording
  • Workflow Updates
  • Shift-Based Performance Results
  • New Employee Welcomes
  • Benefits Information

The list could fill two pages. And it makes sense why. There is so much information that needs to be communicated; there just really hasn’t been a more efficient way of doing this.. Until 2015. Now back to our World Leading Vinyl Manufacturer.  They were in a classic manufacturing vortex. Tons of information spread across multiple communication formats (videos, posters, letters, power point printouts, brochures, PDF and Word Printouts).

The HR Game ended up being how fast can I get a relevant communication onto the lunchroom walls? It didn’t make sense to interrupt during operations, but a during breaks and lunches, it became an optimal time to connect with staff. The next problem in the equation though was “which wall should we put it on now.” It doesn’t take long for any HR member to tell you how much potential content could be displayed. However, they could also comment on how ineffective or disengaging  long walls and corridors of paper memos and updates  can be. Let alone the stress of running from an HR desk to a lunchroom to post the latest update or Management Query.

The solution, particularly in Lean Manufacturing has been the cost effective addition of Digital Signage as the “Communal Communications” system in all high traffic areas. Think of it as moving from a System of Records to a System  of Engagement!

When we initially launched the Digital Screens inside our Vinyl Manufacturer, the leadership team just kind of stood there and starred for a couple of seconds. They openly acknowledged their surprise at how “clean, concise and coherent” the “whole thing appeared”. The multi-frame layout looked like their own broadcast program, with spots for the news, weather, time, date and logo neatly lined around the outside of the screen. Which they oddly acknowledged actually impacted their pride in the company and sense of belonging. But the large remaining frames on the screen were the real show stopper. A combination of safety updates, review processes, job opportunities and the occasional manufacturing joke were all neatly interlaced into a side frame (that perfectly fit the size of a WORD doc / PDF without alteration) -“Bonus!” cheered the HR Manager. Where has this been all my life?

The main frame was easily put together at a 720P Wide resolution to fit most YouTube and company videos. It also happened to be a very close match for Power Point (with a small modification to your PP template).  This main frame rotated between Golf and Holiday images of the staff having fun and then more serious updates on the weekend line production and how the shifts were comparing.

Now the pilot is complete, the company and the HR team are looking to expand the screens into distribution and other remaining lunchrooms and offices in North America.

For more information on this project and the results or how your company can win with Digital Signage, please contact an L Squared Rep 24/7.   Sales@LSquared.com

Thanks for reading!

Brent Nacu

Director, Business Development

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