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  • Pierce Covert
  • 4 March 2014
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How to introduce new industrial technologies to employees

"That’s the way we've always done it." If you're trying to show employees how to take advantage of new technology, you've no doubt heard this phrase once or twice. Although it's a common human trait to get comfortable with a work routine and resist change, change is necessary to increase productivity and be able to compete in the global marketplace. New innovations in technology can also help to keep employees safe at work.

So how do you know when it's time to invest in new technology?

Knowing when to invest in new machinery can be a challenge for those who manage manufacturing facilities. After all, new technology isn't cheap and some bosses aren't immune to getting stuck in a comfortable work routine. Just because a new piece of equipment is available doesn't mean you need to go out and buy the first model. Deciding whether to invest in new technology requires comparing the benefits the new machine offers in cost, productivity and customer satisfaction. It's also important to factor in how much the new technology will cost in terms of initial training and continuing education. Buying technology simply for technology's sake is rarely cost effective.

Once the decision to purchase a new piece of equipment has been made, it's time to 'sell' it to the people who will be working with it daily. This is necessary not only for safety, but to fully realise the new machine's productivity and cost-saving potential. As mentioned above, it's natural for humans to resist change. This is both because workers get comfortable in their existing routine and because learning new technology can be intimidating and scary. Because of these potential barriers, any new machinery purchase needs to be accompanied by a plan to introduce the new technology to the employees.

Even the best piece of industrial equipment is all but useless if the employees working with the machine don't know how to use it properly. That's why training is essential to getting your money's worth out of your new investment, as well as making sure that your employees stay safe around the new equipment. Below are a few ways to introduce your new industrial technology to employees in a way that will make the transition smooth.

1. Present it as a solution

If a new piece of equipment is designed to improve efficiency and make it easier for workers to do their job, this is the best way to introduce the change. If workers feel that the new addition will make their work lives easier, they will be quicker to embrace it. Even better than showing workers how the new machinery will save them time is showing them how it will make them more money. If your floor workers are paid a bonus for their output, increased productivity can translate into money in their pockets.

2. Ask for worker input

Since the workers are the ones who will have day-to-day access and interaction with the new machine, ask them for their input as the new technology is rolled out. An employee that is charged with evaluating the new machinery is more likely to embrace it than one who is simply told to use it.

3. Emphasise training

To get the most out of the new technology, your workers need to be trained on how to use it. Although initial training is important, so is ongoing training. After all, new workers will likely be hired and others will transfer in from other departments or facilities. Companies shouldn't just rely on vendors and manufacturers for training. Developing a core group of employees to lead ongoing training can help workers see how the new technology is being adapted and used at your company; something a manufacturer may not be able to grasp.

4. Assign mentors to help resistant employees

Not all workers will learn how to use the new technology at the same rate. Some will grasp the procedures and the benefits instantly, while others will have more difficulty, either because they are resistant or because they find it more difficult to learn. Since having all of your employees well trained on the new technology is essential, you need everyone to grasp the new procedures in order for the new machine to be effective. One way to help those having trouble learning the new methods is to assign mentors to such workers who will work beside them and give them one-on-one training until all employees master the needed skills and knowledge. You could possibly even reward the mentors with a free lunch, preferred parking in the company lot for a month or other recognition within the company.

5. Make it a gradual transition

While this won't work for every new technology, changing gradually is easier to accept than drastically changing the way your company operates overnight. For instance, if your front office has decided to go paperless in favour of digital files, unplugging all of the printers one morning might be a little drastic. A better choice would be to ease into the transition by using digital files for interoffice memos, then for employee files, then customer files, until all (or most) of the offices files are stored digitally.

Embracing change is difficult for all of us at times. The best way to 'sell' new technology to your employees is to look at it from their point of view, ask their input and not skimp on training.