6 Steps to Win Internal Support for Your Robotics Project
People fear change, especially change involving robotics. As soon as you start considering the implementation of a robotic cell, it’s time to create a communication strategy and direct the conversation at your company. Internal support for your project is critical, particularly at the plant floor level. The book Lean Robotics – A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory says explaining the project is one of the most important jobs for manufacturing managers deploying a robotic cell. This article explores six key steps involved in communicating the project internally.
1 – Define the big picture benefits
Letting people know that you’re making the company more competitive, increasing production at your facility, or expanding the company’s capabilities has a more positive impact than a vague statement – or worse – a rumor about robots being introduced. Explain why you’re implementing robotic cells and how lean robotics strategies can strengthen the company.
2 – Anticipate questions
You know what people are wondering: Will jobs be lost? Will I be safe? How does this impact my job? Will I be reassigned? Answer these questions right away to prevent worst-case speculation.
Let the people on the plant floor know what’s going on and have an open question-and-answer session before you start analyzing tasks in your robotic cell design phase. Explain the types of jobs you anticipate opening up, and potential reassignments and retraining that will be involved. Ask for their input.
3 – Meet with company influencers
Who has been at your company forever and knows everyone? Identify the people that everyone turns to when they want to know the pulse of the company and find out what’s really going on. Be transparent and ask them for feedback – how are people reacting? Is there misinformation that needs to be addressed?
4 – Kick off the project
Incorporate any feedback you received from the plant workers and your company influencers and plan a kickoff event. By the time your event takes place, some people might already know about the project, but you can still officially state the big picture benefits, correct any misinformation, and introduce robotics in a non-threatening atmosphere.
One example of a kickoff event is hosting a demo event where a collaborative robot serves drinks or plays games. At a demo event, people have the opportunity to interact with the cobot to see how slowly it moves, and how it stops or slows down when someone gets too close. A demo event can even be a public relations-style open house for the company, helping to spread the message about how your company is using robotic cells to increase competitiveness with no job losses.
If using an actual robot at a demo event isn’t feasible, you can show videos. Choose one of the robotic integration videos created for general audiences that shows what the robot looks like, its size, and how it moves. These videos can also reassure people by showing others with similar questions and concerns, and following them through the implementation process to see how they felt before and after a robotic cell was introduced.
5 – Provide regular updates and keep doors open
Share the whole story from the initial idea to the robotic cell in use. Make everyone in the company feel involved and invested in the success of your robotic cell implementation. If your company has multiple locations, you can also share project updates with other plants. Keep answering any questions that come up, and show what’s happening with people who are being retrained and/or reassigned.
6 – Celebrate the deployment
Once the robotic cell is up and running, have a celebration. Acknowledge the people who contributed to the project, and share pictures of the before, during and after phases of the installation to make everyone feel like a part of the success. Take pictures of the celebration, and let everyone know that they’re a part of a historic event at the company and in the industry.
To learn more about the benefits of lean robotics and how to communicate your robotic cell project, visit leanrobotics.org.