When we think about the critical requirements for a manufacturer to succeed, productivity, quality, and inventory management immediately jump to mind. But another factor can play an equally strong role in making or breaking a manufacturing business: communication.
Effective communication is important to manufacturers for a number of reasons. First, it helps to ensure that everyone in the organization is on the same page and understands their role in the process. This can help to prevent errors and improve efficiency. Second, effective communication can help to build trust and rapport between employees, which can lead to a more positive and productive work environment. Third, it can help to improve customers’ satisfaction by ensuring that their needs and expectations are met.
Let’s look closer at some of the benefits that effective manufacturing communication brings to manufacturers and how a manufacturing technology platform can be used to strengthen communications internally and with customers.
Five Ways Effective Communication Helps Manufacturers
There are five primary benefits that effective communication can provide a manufacturing business:
- Improve productivity. When employees communicate effectively, they are able to work together more efficiently and effectively, leading to improved productivity and reduced costs.
- Reduce error. Clear and concise communication helps to prevent errors, helping the company to save both time and money in the long run.
- Strengthen quality. Employees who are able to communicate effectively can identify and resolve problems faster, contributing to higher product quality and customer satisfaction.
- Boost employee morale. When employees feel like they are part of a team and their voices are heard, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their work, helping to improve both productivity and the quality of their work.
- Increase customer satisfaction. Customers who feel they are being heard and their needs are being met are more likely to be satisfied with the manufacturer’s products and service, leading to more sales and greater customer loyalty.
How Technology Can Foster Effective Manufacturing Communication
Creating an environment that encourages communication is an important first step. However, communication is only as effective as the accuracy and timeliness of the information being shared. Companies can take advantage of their enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution system (MES), and other software to ensure that employees get the data they need to communicate and collaborate effectively both internally and with customers. Here are just a few common examples:
- Integrated Data: When data from the ERP, MES, and other software is integrated—or better yet, managed in the same database platform—manufacturing employees get a unified, consistent, and accurate 360-degree view of the business. Armed with this knowledge, they can engage in productive discussions, such as the most effective ways to optimize production lines, ensure the company meets deadline commitments, and identify new business opportunities. For example, the comparison of a new order to available inventory may lead to a request for an expedited purchase of materials.
- Design-Through-Manufacturing Efficiencies. Product development can’t function on its own. To bring new products to market quickly and profitably, new ideas must be analyzed and budgeted (finance); components must be sourced (procurement and supply chain); and goods must be quoted and sold (marketing and sales) made (manufacturing), and shipped (distribution).
- Real-Time Data Delivered to Work Centers: When real-time monitoring data about machine performance or product specifications is captured in the MES and delivered to employees’ work center displays, they can proactively identify, communicate, and provide suggestions for addressing potential issues Here, a worker on the shop floor may see an alert that the machine temperature is too high, which could result in defective parts. By calling attention to the issue early, the employee is helping to ensure that production and quality goals stay on track.
- Business and Production Data Displayed on Monitors: Manufacturers can create a shared sense of purpose and goals among employees when they share progress against key performance indicators (KPIs) on large monitors across the business, including the shop floor. Examples can include production status, sales rate, and quality metrics to name a few. One manufacturer has statistics on the monitors color-coded, so everyone can see where the company is ahead, on track, or behind at any time.
- Integrated Inventory, Production, and Customer Data: When manufacturing information, such as inventory and production, is integrated with customer data, employees can more effectively engage with customers. Some companies rely on production and inventory data to provide customers with an accurate delivery date when the order is placed. Meanwhile, one manufacturer takes advantage of integrated inventory and production forecast data to offer customers discounts for purchasing a higher volume of the parts that they regularly require.
- EDI Linked to ERP System: The use of electronic data interchange (EDI) to receive orders from customers helps to speed communications and ensure the accuracy of orders. One manufacturer reported that using EDI enabled the company to cut the order entry process from one day to one hour, improve sales quote accuracy, and reduce the portion of receivables over 90 days from 15% to just 5% of overall accounts receivable (AR).
Manufacturers who are not already doing so should make effective communication part of their overall strategy for growing the business. A manufacturing software platform can then provide a timely, comprehensive, and unified view of the company to drive constructive discussions that improve productivity, reduce errors, improve quality, boost employee morale, and increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.