Has your factory gone remote? Our tips on remote work

By now, we all know by heart what specialists recommend and the world needs us to do regarding the new Coronavirus, Covid-19: To flatten the curve!

This expression, unknown to most of us just two weeks ago, is now the main driver of our lives and behaviors. And how can we achieve it? By practicing social distancing to reduce contamination.

Stopping going out with friends or having a Sunday lunch with family are some of the simple gestures that can go a long way when it comes to social distancing. Another one, not so simple and highly demanding for most companies, is remote work.

Doctors are peremptory: Anyone who can work from home hence reducing physical contact with coworkers and fellow commuters on public transportation, needs to start doing it as soon as possible. Tech companies, especially in the start-up scene, were fast in reacting to this order: Remote work possibility is embedded in their organizational culture, people are familiar with it, managers have the right processes and mindset and everyone has the right tools.

But what about the manufacturing industry?

Needless to say that anyone operating from the shop floor either stops working or has to continue going to the factory. But a few roles, such as finance, human resources or marketing, and even some production managers or other managerial roles, can be sent home. They just need to adapt their processes, find the right tools and keep the spirit high. And that is exactly like everyone else!

Good practices of remote work that can be applied to the manufacturing industry

  • Establish a working time schedule, that covers the time-window when you have people working on your shop floor. In some roles, you might try to ease this aspect a little, considering personal and family responsibilities, and set a 3 or 4-hour frame, when everyone on the team needs to be available.
  • Encourage shared calendars and have your managers lead by example. All existing meetings need to be on the calendar, so that the process of scheduling calls or meetings happens more fluidly. Holiday periods and days-off should be added to the shared calendar too.
  • Use an app to report objectives and key results (Like Weekdone) or simply have your team filling and sharing a journal entry at the end of the day, to mark activities as done and share the progress with the team. You can use a shared document or an internal communication tool, such as Slack.
  • Use the status to let people know what you are doing. It should not be the only way to communicate it, but almost every application has a status that will appear close to your name.
  • Over-communicate and be responsive. This one seems pretty obvious, but believe us that is one of the most important aspects to grant a seamless continuation of your operations. Even if you don’t have the solution to a problem or know the answer to a question, react to what has been said to you just to let your team know that you are looking into that subject. If there is a shared message that doesn’t require a reply, acknowledge it. If it was an in person conversation, would you ignore that person?
  • Keep an eye on your team’s mental health. We are not ready for isolation and suddenly skipping the morning coffee with a teammate, the lunch outside and the commute with a friend, all at once, might be challenging for everyone. Create small moments of interaction, such as quick remote video calls or remote team building activities to keep the communication flowing.
  • Forbes published a good article on remote work and best practices in the covid-19 times, make sure you check it out for more in-depth information!

Related: How to manage your team and operations from home

The tools you will need to keep your operations flowing

A real-time MES
If you use a Manufacturing software like Prodsmart, your team can collect all the relevant information from the shop floor. The same information can be consulted, in real-time, in a web-based platform, allowing your remote workers to be well-informed about the operations, the available resources or the status of the production orders, amongst other important data.

With an MES you can continue to track and manage your operations, your workers and even some of your quality issues, from the comfort of your home.

Platforms for calls and videocalls
You will want to keep all the scheduled meetings going, and it is easier, more friendly and more personal to do it with video. Whereby is a website that allows you to create rooms. Free rooms can have up to 4 people, paid rooms increase the capacity to twelve.
Webex, from Cisco, is also an alternative. Usually it is paid but Cisco has announced that it will be available for free, to support companies in these changing times.
Skype and Hangouts (From Google) can also be used to make video calls. These last two are also useful as a tool for your remote workers to make free or cheaper calls, using their computers and internet connections.

A chat
You can try an embedded chat, like the one that Prodsmart has. Since your team won’t be having any physical contact, all the tools that you can have to keep the remote communication flowing will be very helpful. Whatsapp or Telegram are certainly the most common tools for chat communication, but there are more professionally-focused ones, such as Slack or Teams. If you haven’t implemented one, this might be a good time to kick-off the process and have your team using it.

Share your documents in the cloud
Platforms like Dropbox or Google Drive allow you to share and access your documentation from everywhere. By using Google Drive your team can work asynchronously in the same document, which will consider all the changes and automatically manage the different versions.

A task manager
This last application is more related to individual productivity, but it might be important to use a task manager such as Asana or Trello, where managers can assign tasks and projects to members of the team, which have immediate access to it. And can then mark them as done.

And those who can’t work remotely?

  • For shop-floor workers, keep reminding them of safety and health procedures, check for possible symptoms, and keep the communication flowing. Try checking our Announcement feature, which is temporarily accessible for all our customers. Use it to spread relevant information out to your employees!
  • You can review the distribution of people over shifts and avoid a higher concentration of people on the same machine/sector at the same time. Ask us for help and keep monitoring their work!
  • Temporarily close public spaces, such as cafeterias or smoking areas. Or alternatively, reduce the number of people that can be there at the same time.
  • Keep collecting information in real-time, but in case you have many employees using the same device, invest in individual stylus pens (Check this link for affordable ones!)
  • Promote the installation of Prodsmart on employees’ individual mobile devices, to prevent multiple people using and touching the same device.

If you end up having a shortage of orders, what better time to step back, rethink your operations, optimize your processes, and reframe your efforts?

Go remote now without losing control over your production. Sign up now and check how we can help you.