Attracting & Retaining Factory Workers - How can UK Manufacturing address the challenge?
SME manufacturing companies are finding it difficult to attract qualified candidates to work for them on their shop-floors. We can go some way to improving that situation by offering apprenticeships or improving starting salaries to make jobs more attractive, but I also believe that it's critical we also look at ways in which we can simplify and automate shop-floor work so that we can tap into a larger pool of available resources.
So, what does “simplifying” work look like?
In this article, based on implementation experience, I reflect on some of the practical things that can be done to simplify and automate the work of shop floor operators.
Below is an sample screenshot of a live application deployed on ruggedised tablets at work stations on the shop floor. It demonstrates some of the good practices that can improve the working life of a shop-floor operator.
It uses; colour, icons, guidance shapes, numbers, priority (the order operations are presented in priority sequence). The use of text is minimised wherever possible.
Let’s review some of these elements and see how the screen design helped the operators on the shop-floor.
- Each work centre on the shop floor is given a Colour (in this case green) making it easy to select work for “my work centre operations” and also easy to see where the operator needs to send the end-product of their work for further work – ref the coloured green, red and blue icons under the Destination column.
- Icons are used to indicate the action expected of the operator for example the Play button indicates execute – pressing that starts the clock ticking, the Hour Glass tells the operator not to start that activity yet. Under the Comp(onents) heading we see an icon indicating where the operator can click to review drawings or bills of material related to the work.
- Under the Profile column we see some Guidance Shapes used to represent the shape of the end-product expected – a flat rectangular sheet of steel or a 3D cuboid shaped product in this case. This prevents any fundamental mis-interpretations as to what the expectation of the output from the order will be!
- We also see Numbers used extensively in the information displayed, such as under the Dimensions, Units and Times columns. Some of the workforce may not have English as a first language – minimising text and maximising the use of numbers can help to simplify work, improve safety and minimise human error.
- Less obvious on the screen, but critically important, is the Prioritisation of the work to be done. The app uses prioritisation information held in the system to present, in order, what the operator should work on in what sequence.
- We have already given an example of Ease of Navigation under the Comp column heading where the operator can click to review drawings/BOMs related to the work, another example of this navigation in action is the Pick List button where the operator will navigate to a screen where they can review and drive materials picking activity.
- Not represented on the screen, but available in the app is the facility to Print Labels. The operators print the labels to facilitate the material flow through the warehouse and to automate picking and material staging activity.
- On one of our UK implementations we added a Language facility such that any text that appeared was available in English and in Polish.
Through the design of an application that is intuitive to use and respects the process of the operator, we simplify and automate shop floor tasks.
This opens up options for manufacturing businesses to cast a wider net in terms of searching for candidates for shop floor operators and makes the work of those operators more attuned to the mobile/tablet oriented world we live in today.
The system represented here is called Absoft Adima, an integrated system specifically created to assist SME manufacturers in meeting challenges and opportunities facing the sector.
--> Find out more about our pre-packaged ERP for SME Manufacturers Absoft Adima.
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