Bridge the Shop and Office Communication Gap

Bridge the Shop and Office Communication Gap

Published: January 31, 2012

An Ohio manufacturer becomes an example to the industry, connecting shop workers to office workers in an innovative new way.

It sounds like a lot of manufacturing companies: Office workers at individual desks with up-to-date computers on one side of the wall. Shop floor workers on the other side with shared, old computers in just a few places. Plus the culture divide between them.

That was the situation at Industrial Mold & Machine in Twinsburg, Ohio, not long ago, according to a recent article on It changed when Larry Housel, knowledge and information manager, outfitted all 37 employees with iPads. Everyone now has constant access to e-mail and the company calendar, and can perform tasks like making vacation requests and getting work assignments – at their work stations or from break rooms.

Business users typically find the iPad is easy to use, carry and keep clean, is inexpensive relative to a laptop or desktop computer and has an intuitive interface that appeals to employees who may not regularly use computers. According to the article, a user group meets regularly to discuss how employees are using the iPad and any applications they think the company might use. For example, one app allows drivers to sign electronic forms when they have picked up or dropped off a shipment. That signals to the office that a supply chain transaction is complete. The user group also lets Housel know when people find an app harder to use than he anticipated.

The company’s use of iPads to tie disparate employee groups together represents a new effort to use technology to bridge the communication gap. Many other companies have made inroads by outfitting shop or offsite workers with smart phones. Now, tablet computers can equalize the type of information available to both desk-based and machine- or truck-based employees.