Maximizing Manufacturing Safety Through Mobile Apps

Maximizing Manufacturing Safety Through Mobile Apps

Like everything, safety starts with using the right tools. Here’s how to leverage simple, but powerful training apps.

In modern manufacturing, where quality and safety are paramount, the integration of technology and innovative training methodologies has become increasingly vital. Among the advancements making waves in the industry are mobile training apps that empower companies to efficiently develop site-specific and machine-specific training courses. By seamlessly combining mobile capabilities and eLearning platforms while leveraging on-the-floor observations, manufacturers can upgrade their approach to facility safety, ensuring that training is not just theoretical but deeply rooted in real-life scenarios.

Don’t Rely on the Buddy System

At the forefront of this training revolution are on-the-job training (OJT) apps. Unlike conventional safety training methods, which often rely on generic materials and hypothetical scenarios, OJT apps enable companies to craft training courses tailored to the unique challenges and machinery present in their facilities. The most successful OJT apps find the perfect balance between simplicity for those creating the courses, with an output that is feature-rich for the trainee. Intuitive interfaces and comprehensive features include the ability to record processes, input instructions, create quizzes, and generate immersive training experiences. These solutions help bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, equipping team members with the skills and expertise they need to navigate their work environment safely and efficiently.

A major benefit of modern mobile training apps is their ability to ensure accuracy of the instruction being provided. Too often OJT can be improvised, with even seasoned operators passing along personal shortcuts they’ve developed over the years. But when equipped with the right OJT app, every instructor is using the same centrally vetted and approved instruction. Direct interaction between the trainer, trainee, and the app itself ensures the right way is the only way demonstrated.

Safety leaders also welcome the capacity for on-the-floor delivery. Picture a scenario where a new employee tasked with operating a complex piece of machinery receives hands-on training right next to the equipment they will be working with. With mobile apps, trainers can demonstrate best practices and safety protocols in front of the machine they will be using, making it easier to comprehend without operating the machine itself, keeping the worker safe while learning. 

OJT apps help ingrain a culture of safety and reduce avoidable injuries. But it’s important this on-the-floor activity integrates seamlessly with your central training management system. All records of training activity should be aggregated in a central, ready to access location, and quickly reportable both by employee and by training topic. 

Following through with On-the-Floor Observations

Complementing these technological advancements in OJT are similar advancements for on-the-floor observations, which serve as a crucial validation that training is being correctly applied on the floor. The mobile technology also provides a feedback mechanism for refining training programs and reinforcing safety standards. Supervisors can conduct real-time assessments, identify areas for improvement, and provide immediate guidance to employees by utilizing coaching apps designed for on-the-floor observations. This continuous cycle of observation, feedback, and implementation ensures that training remains dynamic and responsive to evolving operational needs, ultimately enhancing facility safety in tangible ways.

Much like the OJT app, modern coaching apps create consistency in messaging and experience. The app can be accessed via any phone or tablet, effectively equipping every supervisor with the same — already vetted and approved — blueprint for validation and corrective actions as needed. Let’s use lockout tagout (LOTO) training as an example, A follow-up observation can be baked into the LOTO training. A supervisor is alerted the on-the-floor follow up is needed. And every supervisor will conduct the validation observation identically by following the app. Documentation of the follow-up is documented real time and automated. Any corrective action required, is captured and administrated consistently by following the blueprint already provided within the app.

Before implementing any new technology, it is important to understand its offline capability as well. Manufacturing floors and machine shops are notorious for WiFi dead zones. But the right technology is built to work around this. Many of the more successful apps will perform without WiFi, storing the activity locally on the device in the interim, and syncing with the LMS or other company database when the device is back within the organization’s WiFi.

Flexibility in Safety Training

Thus far our focus has been on-the-floor, task-specific elements. This is not to suggest basic safety training is not important. It most certainly is. After all, standard safety training is the foundation that everything previously discussed is built upon. This foundational safety training is where many organizations already check the boxes. But as with anything, going beyond “checking the boxes” can yield better results.

One way to enhance safety training is to build flexibility into your training program. eLearning is among the most popular forms of training, and should certainly be part of your mix. Getting eLearning content from your LMS provider typically streamlines the training admin and reporting elements, just be sure the safety training content is relevant for your needs. eLearning itself is flexible in its ability to be delivered on a company computer in the facility or remotely on nearly any computer or mobile device. But this is still not the be-all and end-all.

Group training using audience response technology is another critical tool in the safety training toolbox, especially for shops and facilities with a sizable workforce. Audience response technology — often referred to as clickers, or remotes — enables an organization to deliver training to dozens of workers simultaneously. This is perfect for general safety training as well as refresher training on key topics.

With minimal investment, a company can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to plan, organize, and complete safety training. This electronic approach also means you can say goodbye to paper sign-in sheets. At the start of a training session, the clickers are handed to each employee and with the push of a button, their activity for that session is automatically synced to their employee record. This includes training attendance, completion, and verifying they answered knowledge check questions. If a particular individual is struggling, a facilitator will see this and can schedule more direct training with that individual.

By harnessing the power of technology to promote collaboration, communication, and shared learning experiences, companies can empower their workforce to achieve new levels of safety excellence and operational efficiency. As the industry continues to embrace innovation, integrating these training technologies and formats into existing training frameworks will be instrumental in building resilient, high-performing teams capable of meeting the challenges of modern manufacturing facilities head-on.

This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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