By Fariyal Khanbabi
From the December 2022 Issue
Manufacturing has been hit hard by labor shortages and supply chain disruptions over the past two years. To make up for lost revenue, some companies may be tempted to push their employees to do more, working overtime and running shifts at max capacity. In the process, these companies may postpone routine plant maintenance to keep up with production.
This can lead to increased risks. Even in highly automated facilities and those that take every precaution, the risk of accidents is never zero. In fact, despite huge advances in workplace safety through OSHA mandates and internal best practices, job site incidents still cost companies an estimated $250 billion a year.¹
Prioritizing productivity ahead of people is not only costly in terms of injuries (or worse, death), but it can also severely impact retention and recruiting at a time when companies need to do everything they can to avoid losing skilled workers. People want to work for companies that care about their well-being.² If safety takes a back seat to productivity, employees will leave. Negative publicity from job site accidents can also cause damage to a company’s reputation making it even harder for them to recruit top talent.
Additionally, with the push toward implementing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives, shareholders and investors are increasingly concerned about employee welfare. The social pillar of ESG focuses on how the business impacts employees, customers, and the community, making safety an important component of ESG.
Rather than pushing people to do more with less, taking a more people-centric approach is the best way to maximize productivity without sacrificing safety. In fact, studies have shown that a healthier workforce is a more productive workforce³, which means investing in your employees’ well-being can still give you the boost you need to overcome production challenges.
Here are four steps manufacturers can take to maximize productivity by focusing on people first.
1. Invest In Robust Preventative Maintenance
When you’re short-staffed, it can be easy to overlook routine maintenance if there simply aren’t enough people or time. But this small oversight can result in major expenses, especially if equipment goes down completely or an employee gets hurt because of an equipment fault. Investing in machinery with a smart interface that tracks conditions such as temperature, vibration, and other critical aspects can help staff optimize and extend the lifecycle of production equipment by identifying maintenance issues in real-time. It also allows manufacturers to perform all kinds of cost-effective maintenance before equipment fails or becomes damaged further.
In addition to keeping production machinery well-maintained, facility lighting is also a vital piece of equipment. Too often, companies wait until multiple bulbs burn out before mobilizing a maintenance crew, causing visibility to become progressively worse over time. Poor lighting is a leading cause of trips, slips, and falls—the most common causes of lost time accidents. In order to reduce lighting maintenance, consider upgrading to long-lasting industrial LED lighting to achieve safer, more reliable illumination and check lighting maintenance off your list for the next 10 years.
2. Commit To Digital Transformation
Innovations to industrial equipment and energy management have enabled companies to easily quantify certain metrics like the amount of energy being saved, the number of accidents avoided, volume of orders delivered, shortened time to market and increased customer satisfaction. Many manufacturing managers have already caught on to the benefits of smarter, automated equipment. FMs who prioritize adopting tools with the specific capabilities their facilities currently lack, and have a clear connection to real value opportunities, can fill knowledge gaps throughout their organization.
The right technology customized and adapted to a manufacturing site’s unique circumstances and purpose can create opportunities for upskilling employees, increased cross-department visibility and collaboration, and better talent recruitment and retention. All of these factors contribute to improving employee skills, satisfaction, and overall workplace safety.
3. Routinely Collect And Analyze Data
Despite today’s many technological innovations, many manufacturers still lack visibility into their everyday processes that otherwise could help them mitigate dangers such as worker safety monitoring and risk analysis. Historically, manufacturers have collected data manually, opening them to human error and recording inaccuracies. This approach is also slow to produce valuable insights since shop-floor data must pass through many hands and be processed manually.
With the rapid advancement of industry 4.0 and our connected world, the benefits of routine data collection are multifaceted. Avoidable downtime and production bottlenecks can be reduced based on reviewing real-time notifications on machines, facility, and inventory conditions, and optimizing production processes before accidents occur.
4. Foster A Culture Of Strategic Collaboration, Employee Wellness, And Integration
Workplace collaboration has been proven to make people feel more connected to each other and motivated to work together and remain engaged at work. For manufacturers, pooled knowledge and resources leads to safer facilities, streamlined supply chains, the adaptability to scale up more quickly and efficiently, and quicker delivery times. Concentrating on one particular stage of the process may inadvertently lead to “knowledge silos” within facilities. Treating employees like a number instead of an individual increases stress levels and decreases employee well-being—all factors that contribute to an unhealthy and unsafe work environment.
Investing in workers’ well-being and safety isn’t just an important ESG goal and a recruiting tactic, it supports your people and their families. Upgrading to long-lasting, industrial-grade technology, like LED lighting or equipment with predictive maintenance and data collection, are a few ways manufacturers can achieve increased safety and reduce maintenance costs.
Additionally, improving the safety and well-being of employees can bolster a company’s reputation as an employee-centric organization that cares about its people. As a bonus, these steps have also been proven to reduce carbon emissions, lower electricity consumption, and reduce total operating costs, further helping companies reach ESG goals with sustainability and environmental benefits.
Khanbabi is the CEO at Dialight, global leader in industrial LED lighting technology. Khanbabi brings over a decade of C-suite experience to her role, having formerly worked as CFO at Harvest Energy and Britannia Bulk, LTD. Having spent her entire career in the technology space, Khanbabi has become accustomed to being the only woman in the room and thus has proven to be a strong advocate for women in the workplace, especially in the LED industry.
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