Manufacturing and other industrial facilities rely on updates to procedures and physical adjustments to remain nimble and productive—but without a change management process in effect, overall improvement strategies may fall flat. To boost efficiency, reduce waste, and improve profitability, consider the ways a change management system can help streamline facilities updates, shifts in processes, or general operations adjustments.

What Is Change Management in Manufacturing?

Change management is an internal system dedicated to maintaining adjustments within a manufacturing or industrial facility. These updates may target manufacturing processes, employee training, staffing adjustments, equipment upgrades, and operational or strategic changes—and more. Continuous improvement methods encourage constant progress within facilities. Paired with a change management strategy, you’re better able to determine goals, examine standards, and strengthen performance.

At the most basic, the steps to change management in manufacturing facilities include:

  1. Identify the problem: Using audits, employee feedback, or incident reports, determine the underlying cause and evaluate any safety hazards or losses that may occur if action is not taken.
  2. Propose solutions: The solution should be based on observation, feedback from key staff members—from production employees and floor managers to supervisors—and even advice from outside consultants.
  3. Implement changes: After determining a solution to tackle a specific need—for example, applying floor marking tape and signage to detail the steps in the manufacturing process for better accuracy—the changes are made.
  4. Train and train again: To ensure compliance with new procedures, employees must first know about the process updates and understand any new requirements. Provide targeted training as part of the facility update and refresher training regularly.

Create a Plan for Valuable Change

The planning phase begins by evaluating data—audits, accident reports, production statistics, and employee feedback—to inform the plan-making process. Without a thorough planning phase, an organization may face unnecessary risks while implementing changes, including wasted time, project failures, and safety hazards. The proposed updates—whether to a floor plan, manufacturing process, or other procedure—should be evaluated ahead of time to determine the efficacy, examine potential challenges, and identify a process to measure success.

This is where the continuous improvement method is beneficial. Updates to processes are planned, then tested on a small-scale basis to determine how effective they’ll be overall before they’re rolled out across departments.

Pinpoint Beneficial Changes

Making updates simply for the sake of change can harm overall progress. Consider the best modifications based on your facility’s needs: A technology update could speed up processes, while a visual communication strategy such as the Lean/5S Methodology may improve efficiency or reduce waste on the production floor.

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Mitigate Resistance to Change

Resistance to change can hold a department—or whole facility—back, but a change management strategy can improve company-wide buy-in, guide implementation, and benefit post-modification outcomes.

Change is always happening. Updates are necessary to keep up with the industry and gain a competitive advantage—but not everyone will be on board. Employees may prefer the old methods. Managers or stakeholders may resist change.

This is where a change management strategy comes in. Rather than mandating changes without input, focus on a company-wide safety culture that includes feedback, training, and a focus on what there is to gain from the process updates. When change management is viewed through a lens of improvement for the safety of individuals and benefit of the organization, as a whole, there is often less hesitation.

Facilities Change Management Depends on Communication

In the planning phase, during implementation, and beyond—communication plays a significant role in facilities change management. For success, prioritize cooperation, collaboration, and communication early in the process, and carry it through planning, implementation, training, and post-change evaluation.

  • Adjustments to traffic patterns—whether in parking areas or on the manufacturing floor—require communication beforehand to determine the best solution. Signage and visual cues guide employees and visitors and provide reminders during the initial adjustment period after changes are implemented.
  • Changes in a materials supplier require communication between various departments, including the employees who manage the orders and the team accepting deliveries, to QA departments who may need to note quality issues in the finished product.
  • Auditing 5S strategy, whether existing or newly implemented, depends on communication as well. This communication includes, but is not limited to, requesting feedback from employees and looking at each step in the process to examining data to determine whether the changes tackled the initial need—or if adjustments are required.

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Visual Cues for Change Management

Visual cues are an important part of the change management process. When updating traffic patterns, workflows, or other processes, communication in the form of graphics and text signage can improve the adjustment process overall. The combination of graphics and text is often easier to understand—especially in a busy environment—and when paired with training, is an indispensable tool while staff grows accustomed to new processes.

Some of the most useful visual communication tools for change management include:

  • Floor marking tape with highly visible colors and text
  • Floor signs that pair graphics and text
  • Safety labels for machinery and hazards
  • Carpet tape for municipal or office locations
  • Directional cues such as arrows, dashed lines, footprints, and crosswalk lines
  • Custom floor signs and tape where a specific message is necessary
  • Lean and 5S signs to inform processes
  • Pallet corner markers, aisle width markers, and loading dock signs
  • Projected lines and virtual signs where floor tape won’t stick
  • Glow-in-the-dark and reflective tape for better visibility
  • Traffic barricades, temporary pavement tape, and road reflectors for parking areas 

For the best results when adjusting workflows, changing processes, or altering physical workspaces, ensure you’re targeting the appropriate changes and focus on thorough communication after the changes have been implemented. A change management strategy such as the continuous improvement method can improve organization and communication throughout the change process. For more tips for industrial and manufacturing facilities, explore the how-to guides and other information in our Resource Center.