By Rick Farrell
As a facility manager, you understand the importance of effective communication within your facility. Without it, information cannot be passed between employees in a way that facilitates a well-functioning operation. Information flow is essential for workers to know what to do.
Within a facility, communication is sometimes hindered by the noise reduction rating (NRR) of the personal protective equipment (PPE) headphones workers wear. But there are several communication technologies warehouses can adopt to get around this issue.
This article discusses the importance of effective communication in facilities, the various types of communication technology, and how these technologies can improve communication for warehouses that use headphones with a high noise reduction rating.
The Importance Of Effective Communication In Facilities
Warehouse facilities are often extremely noisy environments where industrial machinery is running continuously throughout the workday. PPE headphones help protect workers’ ears from being damaged by the constant assault of loud noises. But at the same time, they can get in the way of effective communication between employees.
Effective communication is essential within any facility for both operational and safety reasons. From an operational perspective, effective communication means critical information is passed between employees in a timely and accurate manner. Effective communication enables teams of workers to function as a cohesive unit and ensure that every part of the operation is accounted for.
From a safety perspective, effective communication facilitates safety protocols and can prevent accidents and injuries. The heavy-duty equipment within a warehouse can be dangerous in the event of malfunctions and human mistakes. Effective communication allows workers to know when and where a dangerous situation is at play so they can remain safe and avoid injury.
How Technology Can Improve Communication
The role technology plays in facilitating effective communication is invaluable. Technological innovation has ushered a new level of speed and reliability into the workplace. It also allows facility managers to reach more employees at once, enabling mass messaging throughout the workforce.
Types Of Communication Technology
There are several types of communication technology that improve communication in facilities, including collaborative work, single communication channels, personal devices, chat services, wearables, video communication and infographics, and personalized communication.
The communication structure of certain facilities can be a challenge for fostering productivity. In some instances, workers are spread out across the facility. To combat this, modern facilities are shifting toward collaborative working systems.
In collaborative working systems, employees are in constant communication with each other using chat rooms and similar communication systems. This frees facility managers from having to devote time to delivering orders to employees all day.
Single Communication Channels
Many facilities have various management positions along the chain of command. In some instances, tasks and assignments come from different starting points using a mix of communication channels. Additionally, managers and leaders share information amongst themselves without involving lower-level employees.
When workers receive conflicting information, it causes uncertainty, indecision, and stalls productivity. To avoid this, modern warehouse facilities employ single communication channels where relevant information comes from a single source. This raises the credibility of the message and allows workers to respond to the information immediately.
It’s common for facilities to restrict the use of personal devices in the workplace to decrease distractions and keep employees focused. However, some modern facilities have turned away from this practice and it has proven beneficial. The use of personal devices enables versatility in the communication chain.
Personal devices like smartphones have intranet software that enables workers to connect and communicate in virtual spaces. They also support collaborative workspace apps that enable group work, co-editing, and the execution of other assignments.
Furthermore, it is likely that every worker within a facility will have a personal device. This guarantees that every employee will be plugged into the communication channel and receive whatever relevant information is shared. Overall, the use of personal devices can increase productivity and improve communication between managers, mid-level, and lower-level employees.
The breakdown of communication can have a devastating impact on a facility’s operation. When a worker needs clarification on how to complete a task, delays occur and productivity is stalled. Modern facilities have implemented chat services to prevent the breakdown of communication when operational hiccups occur.
Business corporations have been using chat services for a while, but they are somewhat of a novel communication technology. Chat services facilitate communication between stakeholders by providing a collaborative platform to share information.
As opposed to long-form emails, chat services are less formal and use short messages. They enable quick messaging between workers and allow fluid communication that employees can read and share while on the go.
The use of wearables is becoming more common. Smart glasses are a type of wearable communication technology that is trending in modern facilities.
Smart glasses are ideal for warehouse workers that carry out a lot of hands-on tasks during their shifts. The information is depicted on the lens and allows employees to read instructions and messages without deviating from their work tasks. Some smart glasses come with an accompanying earpiece that allows workers to receive audio messages.
Video Communication and Infographics
Many people are visual learners and retain information better when it is delivered as a video or infographic. Many modern facilities are employing the use of visual aids to improve their communication efforts. Facility managers are increasingly using video messaging to communicate with their staff and share information.
The use of eye-catching infographics is spreading amongst modern facilities. Infographics are beneficial because they keep workers engaged by providing a compelling form of messaging that is easily digested.
Traditional emails are being replaced by personalized messages within the warehouse space. Many facilities are devoting resources to collecting data from their workers in order to customize their messaging to individual employees. This has proven to boost morale by creating a sense of belonging and loyalty to the company.
Farrell has over 40 years of group hospitality experience, most recently serving as President of Plant-Tours.com for the last 18 years. He has provided consulting services with the majority of Fortune 500 industrial corporations improving group communication dynamics of all types in manufacturing environments.