In manufacturing, all too often innovation ends in the machining. As we continue to refine manufacturing processes and machines, using Microsoft Teams allows us to reimagine, refine and retool the efficiencies of the everyday frontline worker.
In the first blog in this series, we introduced the frontline worker (FLW) as an essential yet often overlooked part of any manufacturing company.
We also introduced the frontline manager (FLM) and identified these employees as being critical to the success of the FLW on the production line. The FLM is ultimately accountable for the safety, reporting, training, scheduling and overall efficiency of the FLW. Without them, a lack of efficiency across teams and functions can stymy production and wreak havoc on your bottom line.
In this post, we will highlight how Microsoft Teams can support FLMs and FLWs in the pursuit of greater operational efficiency within the manufacturing industry. We’ll showcase several tools available within MS Teams and look at a range of possible uses. Let’s explore.
General Process Automation for Frontline Workers
As a general rule, you should consider tedious, time-consuming and widely-used manufacturing business processes for digital automation and integration into Teams. Keep in mind, even relatively simple processes can play host to major inefficiencies. These inefficiencies zap productivity and cut into your bottom line.
Consider the numerous internal handoffs – countless documents and even paper-based forms – that occur along the way from procurement to production. While each individual request or approval may be a seemingly straightforward process, the FLWs, workflows, decision-makers and forms all quickly accumulate. This accumulation of manual processes creates bottlenecks as well as ripe breeding ground for human error to occur.
Leveraging the Microsoft 365 suite of applications along with data stored throughout the organization streamlines these types of processes and more. When you automate and surface processes in Microsoft Teams, not only the frontline worker but the entire organization benefits from the enhanced efficiencies these newly streamlined processes provide.
Shifts is a scheduling management tool designed to keep your workforce connected. Shifts helps to engage communications and scheduling across FLWs and FLMs, optimized via mobile device. By deploying Shifts, the power to create, update and swap shifts is in the hands of the FLW, empowering them to responsibly manage their work-life balance.
The FLM frees up valuable time typically spent arranging shifts, while still maintaining control of approvals for swaps and time off requests. Using this app on their mobile device, FLWs can also clock in and out in seconds.
Tasks is a cohesive task management system where users can view and prioritize individual and team tasks. Tasks efficiently presents task assignments and statuses to end users at all levels using a simple and intuitive interface, all within the flow of their work within Teams. FLMs can ensure efficient use of time and resources, allocating and overseeing the right FLWs for the right tasks.
Approvals is a robust app that brings workflows to a new level, allowing approvals of almost anything that requires some form of review, such as time off requests, checklist process reviews, sign offs and quality assurance reviews. Eliminating the endless forwarding of paper and digital forms means greater operational efficiency over time, while making sure the required sign offs don’t get lost in the shuffle of inefficient workflows. To further increase efficiency, approvals is mobile – enabling quick decisions and turnaround time.
With Walkie Talkie, your smartphone can become your walkie-talkie. Users can push-to-talk with their team members within organized channels. For manufacturing FLMs, this means they can maintain secure communications with their FLW team members from anywhere – without the bulk of a radio.
RealWear for Teams
RealWear for Teams is a rugged, wearable tablet that allows FLWs to remain 100 percent hands-free while collaborating with their team members in real time. RealWear users share exactly what they are seeing via photos, video, virtual assistant and speech-to-text, exponentially decreasing the time to troubleshoot and resolve issues. As we’ll discuss in the next post of this series, RealWear also has profound implications for enhancing the safety of your manufacturing FLWs while on the frontline
Imagining Teams Tools for the Frontline Worker
John is an FLW who notices a breakdown in the line. A machine is broken, but he isn’t sure why and the downtime is costing the company money. He quickly snaps a picture, posts it in the proper Teams channel, and receives feedback and a solution from the engineers within minutes. Meanwhile, others in the channel can learn from and take note of the incident.
John also needs real-time instruction to fix the issue, so he leverages RealWear to receive step-by-step guidance on resolving the problem from the engineering group at headquarters – which happens to be in another state. Within minutes, they solve the issue, and production is up and running.
John quickly logs the breakdown incident in a digital form powered by the Power Platform. Teams automatically records the incident in a central location in Teams and sends a notification to John’s FLM, allowing for real-time tracking and knowledge sharing.
We’ll dive deeper into the capabilities of Power Platform in an upcoming post in this series, but for now, let’s highlight some of the broad benefits Microsoft Teams provides to manufacturers.
Benefits of Teams as a digital hub in manufacturing:
Allows for information access, engagement, productivity and automation enhancements from anywhere, anytime.
- Integrates with your existing investments in other tools, applications, and technologies to provide even greater ROIs.
- Provides a secure and compliant solution for everyone, ensuring that company data is always protected on any device while information access is controlled to meet the organization’s legal, regulatory and geographic obligations.
Is well-suited to grow and expand along with your other Manufacturing 4.0 programs and projects.
The need for a collaborative platform for frontline workers has been overlooked for far too long. Microsoft Teams offers a solution that enables real-time collaboration, increasing productivity and efficiencies across the entire span of your workforce. From the field to the plant to the office, Teams connects and engages your entire organization across the globe.
In the next post in this series, we’ll dive deeper into how RealWear and other enabling technologies integrated through Teams can help manufacturers innovate to improve the safety of their FLWs.