How to successfully engage your workers in continuous improvement

Today we are going to explain how to get your frontline workers engaged in continuous improvement. This article explains reasons that impede workers from proposing ideas in continuous improvement and what companies ca change to foster participation of their employees.

What is continuous improvement and why is it valuable to engage your employees

Continuous Improvement, reflecting a core principle of lean manufacturing, is all about gradual never-ending change with the ultimate goal to get better and improve processes all the time.

So, why is it valuable to have an active participation of your front-line workers in continuous improvement? It is your employees on the shopfloor that are tasked with building your products and that are assigned to the defined processes. Equipped with the right tools to report ideas, valuable input for process improvement can be generated from your front-line workers.

Shortcomings of classical approaches for continuous improvement

Let’s have a look at the development of the process for continuous improvement in an exemplary automotive supplier. Steve is an experienced machine operator in this company. In this chapter we will describe former approaches to continuous improvement that were made in his company and explain why those approaches lacked participation.

Because they always did it like this, until recently, Steve was asked to hand in his ideas for continuous improvement by dropping a piece of paper into a container at his production cell. However, for years the company was not satisfied with the level of participation in continuous improvement. Why was that? 

  • First of all, the classical paper-based approach to hand in ideas limits the expressive power of improvement proposals. For his idea on how to improve quality inspection, Steve felt like text was not sufficient to explain all the details, refraining him from proposing the idea.
  • Furthermore, Steve was always unhappy with the information availability of the paper-based approach. After he handed in an idea, it was soon lost in the maze of proposals related to different topics. 
  • But not enough, with the knowledge stored on paper in a centralized container, the information was not distributed and therefore not available where it was needed, with the worker himself dealing with the process. As Steve experienced more than just once that his suggestion for an improvement was lost along the way, he soon got reluctant to hand in new ideas.

To overcome those issues, Steve decided to create a WhatsApp-Group on his own to share his improvement proposals with his colleagues. His co-workers liked the idea and also added messages to the group. Very quickly, the thread grew until it was hard to find relevant information.

drawbacks of consumer tools in manufacturing

The big drawback of such a hands-on bottom-up solution is that important knowledge is not stored in official company tools. This is problematic from many perspectives, most importantly it is a data security nightmare.

Also, Steve quickly realized that with this approach availability of knowledge and information was not significantly better, compared to the previous paper-based process. Even though Steve was able to “star” messages relevant to him, this was not enough to keep track of all the messages in the group, resulting in lost information. As Steve didn’t want to make the thread even longer, possibly hiding other valuable information, he soon got reluctant to add new ideas to the thread. 

Furthermore, with this approach knowledge-management was complex and certain information regularly was lost. After Steve shared a proposal to improve the machine setup process in the respective WhatsApp-Group, he deleted one comment as he did not consider it as being valuable. The inability to manage knowledge bears the risk that potentially relevant information is lost by accident.

Luckily, Steve is a pragmatic man and soon realized that WhatsApp is not the right tool for Continuous Improvement. He finally went to his manager and discussed one more improvement proposal: that is, the implementation of a professional digital system for continuous improvement proposals. Today, since the automotive supplier company decided to introduce such a system, Steve can use the WORKERBASE Dynamic Process Execution platform for his improvement proposals. And all his co-workers now provide more ideas than ever before. The right information is available to the right people at the right point in time, without having to search hundreds of pieces of paper to find the relevant information.

Request a live demo
Increase productivity
Improve throughput
Save quality costs

Why digital chcecklists help manufacturers to improve continuous improvement

Using digital checklists, the automotive supplier managed to boost continuous improvement participation across the entire organization. Here is what they changed to get their front-line workers on board.

  1. With intuitive checklists apps displayed on the smartphone of the worker, handing in improvement proposals got easier than ever before. Enabling idea reporting right at the workstation ensures precise problem description and increases the quality of reported ideas.
  2. Knowledge about how to handle disruptions and failures previously was only accessible to operators that directly work with a machine. Now, the operators can directly document the necessary steps to solve issues with text, photo and video. Based on the documented measures, the system is able to learn which measure used to fix an issue in the past and give an appropriate recommendation. The recommendation is made accessible to other operators across multiple shifts and sites if issues with similar machines occur. By using such a system, the operators create a global knowledge base that works across sites and engaged workers easily see value in their contribution.

WORKERBASE: Dynamic Process Execution Platform for the Connected Worker

Customized digital checklist apps allow operators to hand in improvement proposals supported by text, pictures and/or videos. Furthermore, feedback is gathered by commenting on existing proposals available to all involved users. Finally, submitted proposals can be evaluated by management on a regular basis.

With the Dynamic Process Execution platform from WORKERBASE, an easy to implement solution to better involve workers in continuous improvement looks like this: first, the user scans the barcode of a machine. This is setting the context, specifying the topic he is interested in (e.g. a specific machine). Secondly, the user can choose whether he wants to add a new proposal or whether he wants to retrieve information on that specific topic. Finally the user can also leave a comment on the asset to foster more active interaction and make proposals even more valuable.

The WORKERBASE solution can be introduced in a very short time. If you are like Steve and interested in a professional and flexible platform to manage your continuous improvement proposals, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Digital checklists for continuous improvements

Please use the code below to share the image on your page:

Just add your email address to the Workerbase mailing list and receive regular updates with the latest news and resources.

Request a live demo

Would you like to learn more about our Dynamic Process Execution platform?

Please fill in the form and we will contact you to schedule a call for a live demo:
1. Simply request a demo through the form
2. We'll email you an invite link to choose a preferred time&date
3. We'll have a quick 100% non-binding chat
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.