Digital distraction has become a big problem recently throughout multiple industries, but there are few industries where the impact is felt more strongly than in the manufacturing and logistics sectors. Digital distraction is defined as the state of being distracted from the task at hand by the content one is accessing through a digital device, and according to a nation-wide survey of 1,769 full-time US employees, 87% of workers said that digital distraction hurts their organization’s overall productivity. It's well known that smart phones can be very addicting, and while many people have acquired the habit of checking their smartphones and scrolling through their social media feeds throughout the day, this can have serious implications in an industrial environment.
In the manufacturing, warehousing and logistics industries, it’s key for employees to be aware of their surroundings. While distraction causes productivity decreases for most organizations, in these industrial environments the stakes are much higher. In these workplaces, the risk of distraction causing accidents that can lead to serious injuries and property damage, increase significantly. For example, when working with heavy machinery, a distracted worker could get seriously injured if they’re not paying complete attention to the task at hand. Beyond the unparalleled importance of employee safety, distraction and accidents can also cause significant costs in time and money.
25% of workplace accidents caused on factory floors are due to digital distraction.
The impact of these accidents is serious, so it’s important for organizations to find ways to minimize and mitigate these risks. Many employers want to make the move towards a safer, distraction-free, working area by removing the distractions completely. For example,General Motors has implemented a ban on employee phone use while working or walking through facilities. They are following Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, which are put in place to ensure the health and safety of employees while in the workplace. Designated areas as restricted zones where smart devices are not permitted are called ‘no-phone zones.’
Things can get a little tricky when creating no-phone zones, which inadvertentlyincludes completely banning the use of audio. While some companies are more relaxed in letting employees listen to music using ear buds, some employees take advantage of this leniency and secretly take phone calls or constantly look at their phones to change the music. With the stakes so high, many industrial organizations are finding that a no-phone zone is the best approach to keeping employees safe. The burning question remains - how can this be successfully enforced?
What are the challenges associated with creating no-phone zones in manufacturing?
Currently, many manufacturing companies are policing no-phone zones manually. One major challenge with this is how difficult it is to prove that a violator was on their phone at the time of an incident. This, along with many other concerns, can be addressed by using technology to monitor the zone.
Another big challenge that’s associated with creating a no-phone zone is when employees want to have access to their phone in case of family emergencies. While this can be a grey zone, it’s key to set up boundaries with employees regarding this and be clear in your policies.
The benefits of implementing a “real-time” no-phone zone monitoring system
All employers aim to provide a safe working environment for their employees. By eliminating digital distraction, employers are saving lives and reducing costs associated with time lost or damages. In a manufacturing plant, employees are dealing with heavy machinery that demands their full attention. Being distracted by a personal device can be the equivalent of drunk driving when operating or working near a machine.
Furthermore, employers are ensuring that equipment doesn’t get damaged as employees are focused on the task at hand. Employees should be able to see and hear everything going on around them and be able to spot issues with equipment as soon as it happens. Organizations can also minimize downtime when they reduce digital distraction. When employees are focused on the task at hand, as opposed to the phone in their hand, they are more productive.
With 14% of respondents to the Screen Education survey saying that at least one accident had occurred at their workplace because an employee was distracted by their smartphone, transgressions can lead to serious consequences, especially when half had caused injury or death.
Implementing a phone usage monitoring system is a powerful option for organizations looking to manage and overcome the challenges set in place with digital distractions. This includes being able to view where devicesare located in the context of a digitized indoor map. By using a tool like Inpixon Aware, organizations can view transmitting devices (whether that be Wi-Fi, BLE/Bluetooth orCellular), and quickly be able to see if that device is in an area that it should not be. This is especially important in areas where employees are operating heavy machinery or working on critical tasks and are forbidden from using personal devices (including phones, smart watches, and tablets).
With distractions being one of the biggest causes of workplace accidents, it is key for companies to be able to leverage technology, because manual methods are not proving to be effective. There is a huge opportunity right now to take advantage of Inpixon’s Aware technology. It is an indoor intelligence solution that enables organizations to track digital device usage in no-phone zones on factory floors, allowing for an efficient method of enforcing this policy. Enabled by powerfulindoor positioning technology, our solution gives you both visibility into your facilities and a robust wireless intrusion detection solution in a single, live security dashboard, so you have access to actionable insights to guide key decisions around safety.
Jim Phelan is a VP of Business Development at Inpixon. His dynamic career reflects experiences throughout various industries including national business development and product management for industry leading lighting and controls manufacturers as well as business development for consumer electronics and home automation solution providers. He is a leader in IoT business development.