How Manufacturers Use Office 365 to Maximize Employee Value

April 8th, 2020 | Microsoft 365

Digital transformation has fast-tracked the manufacturing industry, introducing process and production automation and accelerating business faster than ever before. We are seeing a change in how manufacturers use Office 365 are to navigate the unpredictability that accompanies a customer culture accustomed to overnight deliveries and an overall streamlined and intuitive buyer experience. The industry is embracing technology and making it a priority to fast-track product time-to-market. This rapidly increasing pace enhances the age-old challenge for modern manufacturing companies, balancing the complexity of supply and demand in a volatile, constantly changing marketplace. Manufacturers use enterprise-level tools like Office 365 to enable their staff to focus on more practical and productive tasks. By using Microsoft’s agile technology tools and data insights, manufacturing and distribution companies can maintain a supply chain capable of meeting customer demands, needs, and expectations without negatively impacting profitability.

Benefits of Office 365 for Manufacturers: Process and Production Automation

For manufacturers, Office 365 is ideal for the executives as it delivers insightful reports about the status of the production line, provides a mobile, scalable platform for integrated processes, and can customize the operations and human behaviors that make each company tick. For floor workers and managers, it can drastically improve production line and distribution processes by streamlining information, collaboration, and data sharing for increased efficiency and productivity across the board. Microsoft continues to roll out new features and integrations that not only accommodate industry needs but simplify the employee’s technology experience, so technology buy-in and onboarding aren’t such a headache. In addition, the Office 365 applications are agile enough to scale as your organization grows, adjusts its products and services, or merges with another firm. This flexibility allows you to empower your staff to accomplish more with the technology they use and leverage their business knowledge in a more valuable way.

How Manufacturers Use Office 365: Employee Productivity and Engagement

A majority of the potential for enhancing productivity with Office 365’s technology lies in the hands of the people who make the actual manufacturing happen. These employees and departments have their unique behaviors, systems, and generally makeshift workarounds to keep the business running every day. People shouldn’t fit your technology; your technology should match your people in a way that enhances their productivity and enables them to focus on improvements capable of driving long-term results.

Free Employees from Manual, Repetitive Tasks on the Manufacturing Floor

Manufacturing companies have embraced Office 365 to keep up with customer demands for quickly produced, readily available products they can rely on and quality they can trust. There’s always a push to do things faster, more efficiently, and in a way that it fulfills needs, a customer may not even know they have. Office 365’s Power Automate and Power BI are two powerhouse tools that, when implemented successfully, can give your employees the freedom to use their knowledge of the business in a more valuable way. Some manufacturers use Office 365 to automate manual tasks like purchase requirements, inventory transfer approval, and more, so their staff can focus on how their role can improve overall business results. They leverage tools like SharePoint and Power Automate to build custom workflows to automate process-centric functions for collaborative efforts like engineering change orders. Power BI can provide access to a visually intuitive dashboard display that you can configure to compare specific data segments across various departments and operational stages. The executive team can access real-time reports on customized dashboards that display the KPIs they need to keep a pulse on the operational health of the company and potential shifts within their specific industry niche.

Reduce Employee Errors with Streamlined File Management and Collaboration

Modern business software tools like Office 365’s OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams, help free production-line and floor staff from time spent manually processing work orders, quality checks, supply checklists, and more. If you’re still using paper documentation or a hodge-podge of file storage and sharing systems to manage seller and consumer contracts, product histories, equipment commands, work orders, compliance records, etc., you most likely have been frustrated by things like:

  • Accidentally delivering the wrong version of a contract or agreement
  • Hunting down the latest version of a file across multiple email attachments
  • Losing document edits because you forgot to save the file
  • Lacking visibility into who made what changes to an engineering master

Manufacturers can implement automated workflows by integrating Office 365 apps to create a digital hub for personal and company documents. Microsoft applications like Power Automate, Outlook, Planner, Teams, and SharePoint eliminate time spent coordinating with and informing appropriate roles when to take action. Suppose you know your employees respond faster via email. In that case, you can configure a workflow in Power Automate to send an email to the appropriate employee when their peer completes a Planner Card for a work order change request. This can prompt a document review in SharePoint and automatically log the process history across Office 365. This helps assure managers the process has been followed with automated confirmations and allows their staff to focus on more productive tasks. It also prevents team members from wasting time on redundant work and repeated questions. The clarity of progress from one task to another sets the right expectations for quality and timeliness. By using features like document versioning and tracked changes to archive a file’s activity, employees are held accountable for their contribution, as well as for helping improve the work of their fellow team members.

Quickly Onboard and Train Employees with a Consistent Technology Experience

Office 365 is the ultimate tool for team collaboration and communication. Manufacturers use Office 365 and the platform’s built-in integration features to customize the applications and tools around specific segments of business operations while standardizing organization-wide controls such as data governance and cybersecurity awareness and best practices. In addition, the suite provides flexible customizations to streamline an employee’s view of Office 365 based on their team or role in the organization.

Centralized Business Document Storage and Management

Departments can centralize their important team files in SharePoint and include links to these folders directly within Teams. In addition, you can configure the built-in access and collaboration features to align with standard processes and procedures while also maintaining organization-wide visibility and permissions around file access and management. In other words, if you’re leading a team of mobile floor employees, you can ensure that they have the same day-to-day technology experience as everyone else in their role, that they only have access to files they need to do their jobs, and establish repeatable onboarding training for new members that’s easy to facilitate online and remotely if required.

Host, Record, and Share Training Videos with Your Team

Manufacturers use Office 365 tools like Teams and Stream to host and record department-specific security training meetings. Recorded meetings can be accessed and shared directly from within the meeting activity log or from Team’s Stream channel. Download and save Teams meeting recordings into specific department SharePoint sites for future training and onboarding, and link to these SharePoint folders in the group chat or department Team dashboard. While different departments may have a different feel to their specific interface and use of Office 365’s applications, the entire organization should have the same easy-to-understand, integrative experience within the suite as they collaborate and execute their everyday tasks.

Upskill Floor and Production Staff to Leverage Their Internal Knowledge

How can manufacturers take advantage of both their business-critical data and their staff’s bank of internal business knowledge? It will take more than a new way of storing company files. You can free floor staff of time-consuming manual processes, but they cannot apply their experience and knowledge without the right skills and tools.

Direct Supply Chain Decisions with Real-Time Data Insights

Generally, supply-chain professionals for midsized manufacturers are used to having limited data sets to guide their decisions. Office 365 helps solve this problem, providing visibility into critical data insights from all business-critical systems and applications in real-time. In addition, applications like Microsoft Power BI and Power Automate integrate with many popular ERPs used by manufacturing companies, allowing the fluid transfer of data across the organization.

Are Your Employees Ready for Change?

While these advanced reporting capabilities can provide critical insights faster and in a more easy-to-understand way, manufacturers will still need to shift the supply-chain staff’s roles, skills, and tools. This transition will require changing the mindset of both employees and leadership team members as they acclimate to leveraging field employees in a new way. Traditionally, these team members have been the “machines” that help run the machines. But, manufacturers are beginning to realize the value of this mechanical expertise. By using automated processes and reporting, manufacturers can leverage employee knowledge around specific roles, factory machines, and internal processes to improve performance. Informed decision-making enhances production quality, speed, safety, and costs to improve employee and customer experience. For example, supply-chain managers won’t have to rely on a gut feeling and a prayer to make quick calls that could impact production-line productivity in the future. And, you can use Teams and SharePoint to help train floor staff on new processes and technology while troubleshooting their issues over the screen share or screen control features built into Teams video and call conferencing. The manufacturing industry is evolving rapidly, and software subscriptions like Office 365 are helping companies use the power of their data to scale quickly and strategically.

Is Office 365 the Right Fit For You and Your Staff?

Growing manufacturing companies are changing how they serve and engage with customers by empowering their staff with Office 365’s flexible features and tools. Your IT team or outsourced IT solutions partner should be bringing ideas to the table with a solid plan for implementing new technology and a clear vision for success. Technology solution research and design is an ongoing effort for our IT consultation team. Our Chief Information Officers continuously research new Office 365 updates and features and help our clients select and implement the best-fit tools for their business. We know how difficult it can be to decide if it’s the right time to make a change, significantly when it can shift the everyday experience of the people who drive your success. At Aldridge, our team works with manufacturing clients to implement Office 365 in a way that maximizes both employee value and morale. As technology continues to change the face of production and distribution, employees need to be open to embracing new technology, not jaded by failed IT projects and business disruptions. Schedule time to talk with an Aldridge representative to learn more about Office 365 and how it can improve your people’s everyday experience and contribution.