Increase manufacturing employee productivity in the workplace with real-time metrics.

The Importance of Employee Communications in Manufacturing

AngioDynamics, a manufacturer of medical, surgical and diagnostic devices has grown exponentially since its founding in 1988. This steady growth has been fueled by a strong focus on innovation in product development and manufacturing operations.

Keeping line workers informed of production metrics was a big issue. These employees don’t have access to computers or phones during their shift, therefore emails and conference calls couldn’t mitigate the lack of communication. Management relied primarily on verbal and paper communications, facilitated during Gemba walks at the start of each shift, to share metrics about line efficiency, utilization, and KPIs.

Employees weren’t paying attention to paper memos or retaining key metrics moments after hearing them. They felt unprepared and couldn’t partake in productive conversations about their performance. Management needed a new way to empower and inform their staff.

The Trial and Error of Manufacturing Productivity Tools

Lucas Sauer-Jones, Production Manager at AngioDynamics, knew digital displays would keep site information top of mind for line workers. His team’s initial digital signage attempts leveraged a browser to stream information, but it was difficult and time-consuming refresh the content each day.

For Lucas, who joined Angiodynamics with a background in military work, a really structured and fine-tuned approach to production is key. That kind of attentiveness requires, well, attention — and Lucas quickly realized that pages upon pages of black text weren’t holding anyone else.

“I started putting these paper charts in front of them, showing the metrics, showing the problems — they weren’t really engaged with it all,” he said. “I partnered with Larry here: How do we make these more [engaging]?”

The answer? “Put them on a TV screen. Put the metrics on there.” Upon that realization, he asked the IT department to find a solution that could easily deploy metrics to the displays. They reached out to PC Connection who suggested Industry Weapon.

Industry Weapon’s Digital Signage Manufacturing Communication Solution

While it was important to showcase those metrics, a dull screen of blinking numbers isn’t exactly captivating. Lucas’ question was, “How do we mix it up a little with content so they actually look at the screens?”

Well, that’s an answer we’re well-equipped to give. Our team builds daily pieces of content — jokes, news briefs, trivia, you name it — that seamlessly folds in with custom Angiodynamics information.

“Trust me, your jokes of the day — a little corny, but they work!” Lucas said. “They start talking, they’re encouraged to look at the next one … It’s not just about the numbers, it’s also about the company, it’s about the community.”

Listening to employee feedback helped Lucas and Larry figure out a content strategy that really resonated.

In fact, one of the early hiccups is that the team was watching the screens so often, they wanted fresher, more frequently-updated stuff. Adding video footage also boosted internal appreciation for the signage. “People are informed, which is awesome to see,” Lucas said.

Real-Time Data Visuals Lead to Production Line Clarity

For years, these line workers never confessed to management that didn’t fully grasp what the graphs depicted. After seeing the numbers on the screens, they began asking questions.

Management realized they needed to educate their staff on these vital metrics. Staff can proactively alert management of factors impacting their line, and offer insightful recommendations.

“Board members that have visited the site since installing the digital signage have given us excellent feedback. They are impressed that the company has intuitively improved day-to-day processes with visual communication.”

– Lucas Sauer-Jones, Production Manager, AngioDynamics

Friendly Competition Motivates Employees

The staff began to use their daily line statistics as an internal competition among the lines. Not only did this initiate conversations between staff and management about techniques to improve their numbers, but it created a positive morale on the floor.

“For employees, emotional commitment isn’t limited to managerial relationships and satisfaction with compensation. Workers with added mental investments, like self-appointed responsibilities, tend to outperform their peers. Seeing the scoreboard is the first step.”

– Kelly Eisel, Marketing Manager, Industry Weapon

Ideally, all employees who take pride in their work will feel a bit of competition against similar businesses. That’s not the type of competition we’re talking about. We’re talking about on the floor, day-to-day, in a way that makes work feel unexpectedly fun and worthwhile.

“What’s really nice about these screens is we cater to each production line, so we had competition between those lines,” Lucas explained. “‘Why are they green and we’re red?’” The natural instinct to outperform others led to increased productivity, all the way into the green, until it would become “We’re 105%, they’re 110%!”

And for Lucas, that was something to celebrate. Incentives like pizza parties and other occasional perks add fire to the good-natured competition. It’s great for employees, managers and the overall business itself.

Initially, all of the screens were identical. That’s why it’s so important to open the lines of communication with employees and figure out what kind of content would be most useful for them. After Lucas and Larry did so, they realized the screens needed to be customized by the team.

“They really drove that conversation,” Lucas said. “They did recommend better jokes.”

Company Departments Save Time

Lucas relies heavily on color-coordinated charts that clearly define production progress, whether it’s by day, week or quarter. You probably use similar charts yourself: Green shows positive pacing, yellow’s in the middle, red means things the manufacturing process is broken.

Those charts, simple as they are, provide the answer to the most frequent question Lucas hears from his employees: Why am I still working?

“The biggest question we get on the floor is, Why am I on overtime?’” Lucas said. But when those red/yellow/green charts are easily visible by everyone on the floor, they can see the exact answer.

They’re on overtime because we’re still in the yellow, but we’re almost green. And once they hit it, “they get to go home. It’s all in their control.”

Some companies try to achieve this with a big whiteboard and markers. The problem? It’s not in real-time, which makes each minute feel that much slower. And also, “I don’t have great handwriting,” Lucas admitted. You just can’t beat a nice, clean font.

Think about it: The most effective supervisors have full knowledge of employee production rates. They’re often the only ones on the floor who have the complete picture.

When all employees have that complete picture thanks to real-time metrics, they can figure out how to best work together to reach shared goals. And they can go home sooner. Everybody wins.

AngioDynamics’ HR department feels the solution saves tons of time. Instead of printing out flyers, walked around to numerous bulletin boards, replacing old flyers with the new ones- they can update and edit messages within the CMS. Important announcements, safety communications and even job postings are displayed instantly.

Show Employees How They Make an Impact with Product Stories

There’s a fine line when showcasing your own products to your employees. You don’t want them to feel like you’re marketing to them, trying to convince them to spend their paychecks on the same company that wrote them. However, visually showing employees what they’re working toward can be deeply motivating and assuring.

That’s especially true at a company like Angiodynamics, where the products employees are building on the floor will ultimately help save other people’s lives. One tool that treats patients with cancer is difficult to visualize until it’s actually in action.

“We put a video up there of how it helps patients and what the device actually does, and it motivates [them] to work faster because they know that if we’re behind on schedule, that’s a person,” Lucas said. “What they do in the plant — they might be doing something with a tube, something miniscule, but at the end of the day, it’s going into a person’s body and helping that person.”

Industry Weapon’s simple-to-update solution allows AngioDynamics to keep content fresh and stream key metrics campaigns to their displays.

The company demonstrated how their software platform, CommandCenterHD, can automate socially relevant content to their screens to break up corporate communications. Industry Weapon also promised to train and provide free, 24/7 technical support to AngioDynamics.

The same ideology can likely fit your own organization, no matter what kind of work you do. In some way — we hope! — it’s helping people. Your employees deserve to see the external benefits of their hard work.

Want more? Download the “Boost Employee Productivity with Real-Time Metrics” ebook.