With the continuing labour shortage problem and ever-shrinking budgets, you need to retain and maintain the motivation of your valuable industrial maintenance workforce.
In this article, we’ll discuss how modern technologies can help.
How to Motivate Employees in Industrial Maintenance
The labour shortage continues to get worse with baby boomers retiring at a record clip and the lack of interest in maintenance and production jobs by the younger generations. The impact has been an increase in costs due to overtime and excessive use of contractors. At the same time, budget pressures have accelerated due to the challenges introduced by the pandemic.
For the maintenance technician, the overtime combined with pressures of the job are having a negative impact on job satisfaction. With the labour shortage, preventive work gets set aside to address urgent problems. And as any maintenance manager knows, this sets off a cycle of less preventive maintenance leading to more reactive, break down maintenance requirements.
For the maintenance technician, the constant stress of having to fix something quickly in turn causes them to do the minimum to get things running. Now, maintenance technicians are experts at their trade, pressuring them to take short cuts devalues their work – they want to do the job right, the first time. With a growing proportion of break-fix activities in their daily workload, job satisfaction suffers.
To deal with these challenges, you need technology. According to Dr. Ankita Singh, SVP of HR at Cignex Datamatics, “Technological innovation is the solution to motivate employees and retain talent in today’s scenario. From process improvement to employee experience, from communication to collaboration, from hiring to retention, technology not only helps employees to automate routine work & enhance productivity but also in being happy through better engagement.”
For maintenance technician’s this is especially true, let’s explore the different ways modern, digital technologies can have a significant impact.
The Role of Technology in Employee Motivation
In a global study by Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, “it was revealed that employees who work in digital workplaces are not only more productive, but also more motivated, have higher job satisfaction, and report a better overall sense of well-being.
The majority of respondents (97%) also felt that their workplace would be greatly improved by an increase in the use of technology. In addition, 64% of respondents reported feeling that their company would fall behind the competition if new technology were not implemented.”
This feels at odds with the perspective that employees feel threatened by technology taking away their jobs. Although reducing headcount might be one of your goals, the fact remains that technology can improve the job satisfaction of the employees you want to retain in many ways.
1.Replace Mundane, Routine Tasks
Dr. Singh noted that “Automating routine tasks frees up employees to perform work they find more meaningful and that definitely motivates them.” In production for example, robots take on the repetitive tasks that don’t require judgement freeing up the worker for tasks that require some human ingenuity to perform.
For maintenance technician’s, replacing data entry and paperwork tasks can be accomplished with a mobile maintenance app that allows them to enter information while they are working. As a result, the work they hate – paperwork – can be replaced with the work they love – more time to fix things.
2. Improve Communication
Technology, like mobile devices, enable better communication and collaboration for teams. In terms of its impact on job satisfaction, Dr. Singh outlined how mobile devices provide an “Instant feedback mechanism (including) inputs, feedbacks, appreciations, recognitions, work allocation, guidance, and direction (which) is highly appreciated, and it also improves engagement & motivation.”
Considering the environment of maintenance work, with the potential for a problem being discovered at any moment, having immediate access to the systems and people required allows for quick coordination and response. With a mobile maintenance solution, new notifications can be raised, turned into work orders, approved, and resourced in a matter of minutes. For maintenance technicians again, this allows them more time to do their work as opposed to waiting for decisions and paperwork.
3. Provide Real-time Access to Data
A mobile maintenance app can provide immediate access to the systems and information technicians need to do their job. Manuals, checklists, safety guidelines and more can be referenced on a planned or new, urgent work order. This allows maintenance technicians to spend more time doing their work with the confidence that they are doing the work correctly.
In a recent webinar, How Mobile EAM Can Increase Your Plant Efficiency and Reduce Costs, the Project Leader at Saint Gobain, Noureddine Benbellat, described how delighted the organisation was with the ability to label each piece of equipment so that the maintenance staff could use a mobile device to scan and immediately get a checklist to get the equipment back up and running. The company was so excited with the technology; they extended this forms functionality for use cases in the production and quality departments.
4. Provide On-the-job Learning
According to Riia O'Donnell’s article on HR DIVE, “In an era of deep talent gaps, the need to train has never been greater. And new tech that promises to make workers more productive — if they only had the time to learn to use it — compounds the problem.” This is certainly true for today’s maintenance technicians with the growth of technologies like smart equipment, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and IIoT. To repair a piece of equipment can require both physical and software-related actions.
The ability to have immediate access to information to do their jobs, enables employees to learn while doing. Whether they are referencing a manual or step-by-step instructions, employees are training themselves at their own pace. In fact, in the Aruba study they found that “89% want training anytime/anywhere they need to do their job.”
Dr. Singh adds to the point that “as employees become more reliant on their phones, it is more common for them to carry out tasks of all scale on mobile in those micro-moments (during a break at work, waiting for public transport) available... Many activities, particularly learning, is slotted in during spare moments, like during travel.”
5. Improve Data for Better Decisions
Now talking about smart machines, AI and IIoT devices – these Industry 4.0 technologies also contribute to employee satisfaction. They provide useful information that technicians can use to identify and diagnose a problem. Some of the technology allows the equipment to repair itself, but most of these technologies don’t replace the technician’s job but support their analysis and decision-making. Once they’ve gotten over the learning curve, these technologies contribute to their satisfaction in doing a job well (and certainly a source of positive feedback from management).
Improving data quality also comes from simply capturing data accurately and consistently to enable better analysis and decision-making. As technicians capture information such as the time to complete a task on a work order, this information becomes available to management to be able to use to schedule the same task in the future. When schedules are designed to provide technicians with the time needed to do the task right, the technician will feel less pressure to cut corners and that their work is respected.
6. Attract and Retain the Younger Generation
The younger generation was raised using computers and the internet. They expect to be always connected and have access to information wherever they are. Replacing paper-based maintenance processes with mobile devices will meet a basic expectation of these generations. In the Aruba survey, they found that “most respondents thought digital technology would result in a more efficient (56%), more collaborative (52%) and a more appealing (57%) work environment.”
The younger generation can also be charged to help drive the adoption of mobile workflows with their fellow technicians. This would be a valuable job challenge (and retention strategy) for the younger technician while helping the organisation to quickly gain the cost, productivity, and job satisfaction benefits of a mobile maintenance solution.
7. Technology for Better Maintenance Management
Maintenance management supervisors and leaders of course play a key role in employee motivation. Technology can help management better organise, communicate, and have a positive impact on employee satisfaction. Technology can also improve the quality and efficiency of management tasks to the delight of the management team.
Immediate Access to Staff
As noted earlier, having mobile devices gives the maintenance management staff immediate access to their staff to rearrange work as needed to quickly respond to a corrective or breakdown event. Mobile technology also provides real-time visibility to the location and work status of a dispersed workforce providing managers with greater ability to track performance and provide real-time feedback.
Schedule the right tech to the right job with the right amount of time to do the job right.
You can streamline the routine steps to create the weekly schedules with planning and scheduling software. Then use the time saved to improve the schedules with insights into technician capabilities, skills and certifications, detailed availability of the technicians, machine downtime calendars, parts availability and so on. The list of considerations is extensive so the more that can be automated and presented into a view for evaluation, the easier and faster it is to do the human adjustments.
And with the data captured from technician use of mobile devices, the planning and scheduling staff are better able to assign time to work orders for scheduling.
The result is a better schedule that drives technician productivity (higher wrench time) and job satisfaction, not to mention improving the job of the scheduler. Doc Palmer, in his Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook puts this point in perspective: "Implementing proper planning and scheduling can improve productive maintenance time (wrench time) of a typical organisation from 25-35% to 50-55% - almost doubling the ability to get work completed."
Overall Operational Impact of Employee Satisfaction
As we’ve mentioned, maintenance technicians are more satisfied if they can apply their skills. Ricky Smith, Senior Reliability Advisor for GPAllied, Equipment World article, summarizes the results well: “Once you’ve got your processes standardized, repeatable and efficient, not only does wrench time increase, but employees enjoy their jobs more and machine uptime increases as well…It will change the whole organisation, but you can’t talk about that at first because you only control maintenance. You don’t have to show them (management) or send them an email or brag about it. Just let them become aware of it. They will see equipment reliability going up. People will be more satisfied in their work. There will be less absenteeism, better morale and less turnover.”
Addressing employee job satisfaction has many benefits. According to Dr. Ankita Singh, SVP at Cignex Datamatics, “A fully engaged workforce means reduced churn and increased organisational productivity and efficiency. For employees, their workplace should be digital, productive, competitive, adaptive, advance, and safe to work.”
Sigga Solutions for Employee Engagement
Implementing new technologies in maintenance operations is complex and constantly changing. We can partner with you to overcome these challenges with proven digitization and mobile solutions with experienced deployment teams. Not only will you gain significant operational efficiencies, but you will also improve employee satisfaction and retention.
Sigga Mobile EAM is a proven mobile solution designed to digitize the activities of the maintenance and repair worker. The solution replaces tedious, manual paper-based processes with everything the maintenance worker needs in a mobile device while in the field or plant including data from smart technologies. Sigga Warehouse and Inventory extends the mobile job satisfaction benefits for further cross-organisation collaboration benefits.
Sigga Planning & Scheduling enables the planner to replace tedious spreadsheet work with a solution to automatically create a baseline schedule for maintenance and repair activities. This allows the planner to focus their time on finessing the schedule with ad hoc requirements and making their own value-added inputs.
Talk to our consultants to learn how we can help you improve the motivation of your employees with proven technologies.