In the last 15 years, productivity gains in manufacturing have stagnated.

In the 20th century, massive productivity gains were realized by the post-war Lean / Continuous Improvement movement ushered in by Toyota and others.

Then factories got smarter with IIoT sensors that could sense infinitesimally small abnormalities in production line speeds, product characteristics, temperatures and so on. Sensors were hooked up to robotics that could push defects off the line instantly. Reams of data was made available to managers who could use the information to optimize productivity.


But while facilities were getting smarter, humans were not.

Manufacturers spent billions on making their machines smarter but to this day most modern facilities are still using paper and spreadsheets to manage their operations.

Organizations can have thousands of well-programmed sensors shooting out reams of rich data. Smart managers can interpret the data and make changes to equipment and procedures. But if no one is willing to do the extra work required to make it work, all of this will have little impact.

It is clear that a disengaged workforce costs organizations.

Ultimately, “Smart Factories” have dehumanized workers who are expected to act like machines and do as they are told. “Engaging for Success: Enhancing Performance Through Employee Engagement,” a study for the UK government, found companies with low employee engagement earn an operating income 32.7 percent lower than counterparts with more engaged employees.

As well, the inverse is true. Sustained Employee Engagement is proven to be the most important success factor in building Operational Excellence momentum.

The “2012 State of the American Worker” report from Gallup made clear the impacts of improved engagement on key performance indicators. According to the survey, increased employee engagement results in:

  • 40% reduction in safety-related incidents
  • 40% reduction is quality defects
  • 37% reduction in absenteeism
  • 20% increase in productivity
  • Over 20% increase in profitability

As Operational Excellence (OpEx) calls for the pursuit of perfection through continuous improvement, it is important to ensure you can foster a culture in which Employee Engagement is sustained and builds over time.

The 3 most important factors to building sustained Employee Engagement are:

1. Empowered

Are your employees asked to be accountable for the success of your organization?

Sometimes the simplest way to get something done is to just ask for it.

Disengagement breeds resentment and also a feeling of irrelevance. Staff can begin to buy into this notion that “Management doesn’t care what we think.” and that notion can spread like wildfire across your organization.

The simplest way to combat this is to tell them “We do care what you think.”

Empower your employees with responsibility and accountability over the success of themselves, their teams and the organization at large. Empower them to work within a CI framework to improve their work station. Empower them to pay attention to what is going on around them and to speak up when they have an idea or when something doesn’t seem right.

Empowerment provides employees with the permission to act. It is the gateway to Employee Engagement.

2. Energized

Are your employees intrinsically and extrinsically motivated for going above and beyond?

Empowering your staff to help build Operational Excellence is the crucial first step but it does not guarantee that they will move forward. Leading horses to water does not guarantee they will drink. Staff need to also be excited and energized to take that step.

In order to sustain an energized culture, you need to foster intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Everyone is motivated to perform in different ways but most people need both.

An intrinsic reward is an intangible award of recognition, a sense of achievement, or a conscious satisfaction.

An extrinsic reward is an award that is tangible or physically given to you for accomplishing something. It is a tangible recognition of one's endeavour.

If you do not offer an opportunity for your staff to be motivated by intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, there is a good chance they will do the bare minimum to achieve the only reward that matters to them - the pay-check.

3. Enabled

Do your employees have the tools and resources they need to be successful?

If you have an empowered and excited staff, you are doing very well. But there is a good chance it will not be sustainable unless you provide them with solid tools and resources they can use to be successful.

We work with many organizations that have enabled their staff and have found a way to make them excited, but the excitement is short lived because the tools they are using are inefficient and hard to use. This takes the “wind out of their sails” and kills momentum.

Paper forms are common momentum killers because they can be riddled with issues and inaccuracies, get misplaced, and are required to be physically transported around the facility.

Spreadsheets are generally inaccessible and manual input from paper forms can take hours.

Other inefficient solutions include trying to make an ERP or other type of software work to enable OpEx.

If your tools are inefficient, staff will not want to participate and eventually your program will lose momentum.

Weever’s OpEx software platform helps manufacturing organizations build and maintain momentum by fostering the 3 Es of Employee Engagement.

Empower your staff with “bottom up” Operational Excellence tools. Allow staff to understand the value your organization is manufacturing and how it is delivered so that they can correct issues autonomously. Staff can submit suggestions, observations, and abnormality reports and watch the progress of them into site initiatives and improvement projects.

Energize your staff with personal goal tracking, gamification and automated reward points that they can redeem in your personalized rewards marketplace. Broadcast result KPIs and celebrate wins to keep staff engaged.

Enable your staff with instant access to modern software that is just as focused on Operational Excellence as it is on Employee Engagement. Weever makes it easy to collect data, track projects and view reports while staff can also review leaderboard, point totals and redeem rewards - all in one place.