By Rick Farrell, President, PlantTours*
Whether you run a factory or an online food business, communication plays a critical role in helping you succeed and effectively manage your team. For business owners and employees who struggle with communication, investing in the right tools can help them overcome their challenges and keep things running smoothly.
This article discusses common communication challenges, as well as eight influential communication trends that professionals might want to consider leveling up their businesses.
Common communication challenges in the food industry
Businesses in the food industry experience numerous communication challenges daily. The following are some of the most well-known hurdles that professionals in the food manufacturing industry might face:
With so much going on in a warehouse, on the factory floor, or in any other food manufacturing setting, it's not uncommon for messages to be misheard or misinterpreted. Miscommunication is problematic in any industry. However, in the food industry, it can be particularly troublesome and even downright dangerous. For instance, someone could misunderstand how to use a piece of equipment, or they might not get the memo about a hazardous situation (such as something spilled on the floor and presenting a slipping risk).
o Language barriers
It's easy to assume that everyone on your team speaks the same language or speaks that language with the same fluency. That's not always the case, though, especially for large companies in the food manufacturing space.
Language barriers can contribute to miscommunication and create frustration for all parties involved. Depending on the information that gets miscommunicated, language barriers could also hinder workplace safety and increase one's risk of landing in hazardous situations.
o Lack of face-to-face communication
Depending on the type of food manufacturing company or food business you run, you might not always have a chance to talk to team members face to face.
For example, let's say you run a company with facilities across multiple countries. If this is the case, your only option is to communicate via phone or email (unless you want to jump on an hour-long flight and travel to another country). These methods of communication are convenient, but they can also lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation.
o Wasted time answering FAQs
Poor communication can also result in wasted time and decreased efficiency. If managers and leaders must waste time answering the same questions over and over again, they have less time to handle other core components of their jobs. Not only is this frustrating, but it can also hinder productivity.
Photo © Hafiza Samsuddin | Dreamstime.com
Investing in and properly utilizing the right communication tools can help professionals in the food manufacturing space overcome common challenges and achieve their goals faster:
In a busy or potentially noisy food manufacturing setting, it can be difficult for employees to adequately hear and understand each other — especially if they're trying to communicate while performing other critical tasks.
In these situations, high-noise communication headsets can come in very handy. They're equipped with state-of-the-art noise-canceling features, which help workers to hear and be heard more easily. The best high-noise communication headsets can also be worn under a helmet to mitigate potential safety concerns.
Mobile-friendly communication — such as team chat or video conferencing apps — is helpful to food industry employees who aren't working on the plant floor.
Mobile-friendly communication enables these professionals to quickly send messages back and forth and keep each other in the loop about what's happening at the company. The best tools also allow for multiple communication methods, such as chat, voice messages, one-to-one and group messages, etc.
Artificial intelligence (AI) communication — such as AI chatbots — is an excellent option for managers and leaders who are fed up with answering the same questions repeatedly.
Chatbots can be used to answer frequently asked questions at any time, allowing team members to get information more quickly and maximize their productivity.
Face timing and video conferencing are practical solutions to many communication issues.
For example, say colleagues are struggling to interpret each other's written or voice-only messages. In these cases, video messages can be helpful.
Video provides a visual component that allows people to pick up on nuances (such as changes in body language or facial expression) that can get lost in other communication methods.
Voice-activated technology can help workers who need to communicate while their hands are busy and they're dealing with other tasks.
These tools are best suited to work environments that are relatively quiet, though. A busy, loud factory floor could accidentally set off the voice-activated tool, creating irritation for employees.
Digital signs are an excellent workaround for food manufacturing employees working in very loud, busy settings.
Digital signs can be placed in convenient locations throughout the workplace to deliver real-time updates and ensure everyone is on the same page.
For example, imagine a bottleneck has occurred on an assembly line, or there's a hazardous condition in a specific part of the factory. In these cases, the digital sign lets everyone know, even if it's too loud for them to hear a message delivered via a speaker.
Wearable technology — such as smart watches or smart glasses — are convenient tools for workers in the food manufacturing industry. Whether someone works in an office setting or on the factory floor, these tools help workers stay connected and aware of what's going on in other parts of the building — or in other branches of the business.
Translation apps and tools can be highly valuable in food manufacturing companies where employees struggle with language barriers. These tools allow for better communication and help to prevent misunderstanding or misinterpretation. They can also increase safety and allow for better workplace relationships.
Improve team communication today
From high-noise headsets to wearable technology, the modern communication tools discussed in this guide can help you and your team stay connected, avoid misunderstandings, and improve efficiency and productivity.
*Rick Farrell is North America's foremost expert in improving manufacturing group communication, education, training and group hospitality processes. He has over 40 years of group hospitality experience, most recently serving as President of Plant-Tours.com for the last 18 years. He has provided consulting services with the majority of Fortune 500 industrial corporations improving group communication dynamics of all types in manufacturing environments.
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