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Mapping Technology Changes to Physical Changes for Factory Workers

Imagine you have a job doing the same thing day in and day out for 30 years. You’ve become an expert in what you do, and you know your processes like the back of your hand. Then one day, some guy comes in from the IT department thrusting technology into your hand, going on about the new thing that works with another thing called an “ERP system.”

This a loose representation of our Radley XDC implementation at Prince. The extension of data collection onto our shop floor put technology in an area where none existed previously. Our factory operators were experts on their products and processes, but were also accustomed to doing their processes through paper-based methods.

In an effort to ease the transition for some of our most important stakeholders, we placed a big emphasis on connecting the new barcode scanner based processes to physical processes the factory operators already knew. By integrating their new barcode scanner flow into their daily operations and using their terminology as much as possible, we were able to reduce the confusion and frustration that can come with using a new system.

As a good example of this: Our operators have a well-documented procedure about packaging a pallet of material which ensures that we satisfy all customer requirements. After the pallet is fully packaged, labeled, and ready to go it gets put away in the warehouse. We treated our barcode scanner flow as an extension of this overall process, training them to always do their scans at the very end of the packaging run but immediately before the finished pallet was put away in the warehouse.

Benefits to doing it this way were numerous. As an extension of their known process, they became accustomed to it quickly and scanning became second nature after a few work shifts. By tying it to a physical process such as movement of the material in the warehouse, we reduce error because the operators can’t scan material incorrectly if it’s not there next to them. By being very specific about when the scans should occur, operators can be consistent in the procedures and confident that they did everything correctly.

Change is rough, but everyone benefits if new technology adoption processes are designed in a way that promotes success instead of leaving the potential for failure. Factory workers don’t always operate in the same technical world that IT or business analysts do, and it’s important to be sensitive to that. Be kind to your operators!

Contributed by Drew Hibbard
Business Systems Manager, Prince Minerals

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