In manufacturing, location gives you an edge. For that reason, many manufacturers operate multiple facilities in different hubs. However, managing multiple worksites comes with its own set of challenges. You run the risk of inconsistency and miscommunication. Mismanagement over multiple sites can damage relationships with your customers and wipe out any advantage you might have enjoyed by going big.
Below are seven ways you can effectively manage manufacturing operations across multiple sites.
1. Keep Lines of Communication
Open Good communication is crucial in any work environment, but it’s even more so when manufacturing operations are scattered across multiple locations. What can you do on your end to ensure lines of communication stay open?
- Visit each facility as often as you can. Use it as an opportunity to give updates and to get employee feedback.
- Conduct regular one-on-one conference calls with each facility. If you operate more than two, host a global conference call every month.
- Invite employee feedback by email. Even if you can’t be there in person, you want them to know that you are listening.
2. Take Advantage of Technology
- The reason it’s increasingly easy to operate multiple manufacturing facilities is that we now have the technology to do so efficiently.
An email sent to a manager within your own facility packs the same punch as one sent two states over. If picking up the phone is tiresome (and many managers will argue that it is) then keep the email flowing.
- Remote communications don’t have to be impersonal. Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts — you have multiple options for a video conference that keeps communications personal.
- Management software allows you to track progress from anywhere. And it allows you to keep operations uniform across multiple sites. Have your workforce track tasks and time online so you can keep better tabs.
- Manufacturing operations processes can now be effectively managed with several readily available software solutions; these programs can help manage continuous improvement across sites, to help reap further gains to Lean and other performance improvement initiatives
3. Keep Decision-Making Inclusive
It’s one thing to give orders from afar, and it’s another to seek input on important company decisions. It’s good for morale and encourages cohesiveness over distance.
- Give management at each facility a say as you make company-wide decisions, such as policy changes, changes in production and other important issues.
- Give workers the opportunity to weigh in from time to time. At the very least, make use of a company wide “suggestion box” and address each suggestion either during conference calls or by email so that employees know they are being heard, even if they aren’t at your company’s central location.
4. Assign On-Site Leadership Roles
You have to be able to trust your managers, especially when you can’t see them.
- Have on-site managers report to you even more regularly than they would if they were in the same building — whether by email or daily phone call.
- Empower managers to make local decisions. But be sure they understand where their authority ends and when they must answer to you.
5. Establish Company Best Practices
It’s not enough to have strong local management if they don’t have a universal company policy to which they can refer. Establish clear, consistent best practices, and be sure employees from every office understand them.
6. Do Inter-Facility Team Building
Workers at each of your manufacturing facilities have the same goals, which are to be productive and see the business as a whole succeed. They can accomplish those goals best as a team.
- Many facilities find it useful to do yearly team-building exercises within each facility — during which workers become better acquainted with one another and understand individual roles throughout the facility or plant. You can do this across the entire company as well, either as a yearly gathering or by having workers participate in online exercises.
- Similarly, conference-call-style team-building can at the very least allow employees to put a name with a face so that when they have to interact remotely, they are more comfortable doing so.
7. Recognize that Each Facility is Different
As much as you stress uniform policy and management styles, understand that each of your manufacturing facilities has different local needs.
- Cultures vary internationally and domestically. Be sensitive to different holidays or customs that could affect routines.
- Likewise, regulations differ across borders. What works in the Asia or Mexico might not be applicable in the United States.