Signal dropout and interference from static and background noise are every-day frustrations for today's mobile workforce. We've all had those telephone conversations where we've resisted the urge to tell our boss that they sound like a Dalek on a roller coaster.
In the manufacturing industry, the ability to communicate reliably, clearly, and easily in high noise environments is critical - not only in terms of demands to increase worker efficiency and productivity, but also to help improve plant safety and incident response times.
BUT HOW NOISY ARE WE TALKING HERE?
Unless you've worked in a manufacturing plant, it's hard to imagine how noisy they can be. Sound levels over 100 decibels are not unusual. That's about the same as a jackhammer, or a plane taking off. Incredibly, even that isn't loud enough to stop clear communication with MOTOTRBO™ digital two-way radios.
With the adoption of digital two-way radios in manufacturing accelerating, it's important to appreciate that not all devices are equal.
Here's my list of the top 4 must-haves when selecting digital two-way radio communication systems for high noise manufacturing environments:
1. Background noise suppression so voice communications are always crisp and clear.
2. Intelligent audio technology that automatically adjusts radio volume to fit an environment's noise level. So regardless of whether your employees are working the line, walking the floor, operating machinery, driving a forklift, or in the comfort of a quiet office - call volume is always perfect.
3. Optimal coverage throughout the plant, inside and out. Unlike analogue, the sound quality of digital two-way radios shouldn't drop off with distance or suffer from distracting static. Don't accept any loss throughout the coverage area. The result should be reliable, clear communications with workers, no matter where they are in the plant.
4. Rugged accessories that feature audio technology to further suppress ambient noise, improve intelligibility and amplify loudness - enabling alll workers to communicate clearly while staying focused on the job.
WHAT'S THE END RESULT?
Of course the benefits of crystal clear audio for plant communications goes beyond the immediate. Machine operators, line workers, mobile employees, office staff and safety and security teams can operate as a cohesive unit when they can communicate reliably and seamlessly throughout the plant. The end result is a significant boost in worker productivity, greater efficiency, reduced downtime and improved incident response times - as discovered by Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing in this case study.
In the age of digital two-way radio communications, you really don't need to shout to be heard in noisy manufacturing environments.
Do you use mobile phones to communicate with colleagues? Have you ever been let down by them?
Like just about everyone else on the planet, I could hardly believe the way that Germany beat Brazil to reach the final of 2014 FIFA World Cup™. It was a truly emphatic display of "lean football". Efficiency didn't just beat superficial style - it ran rings around it!
From kick-off, the intensity and passion of the crowd was palpable. But it was like the Brazil team couldn't function and communication broke down almost instantly. While somehow the German players were able to block out the background noise and focus on the job in hand.
This German team was absolutely fit for purpose. Sure, there'll be people who'll say that things would have been different if Neymar had played. But this was a situation where substance outsmarted "The Beautiful Game" with ruthless efficiency.
With leading industry researchers stating that unplanned downtime can slash profits by as much as 40%1, the choice of which communication device to deploy across a plant becomes an increasingly important decision.
The same can be said when considering the use of digital two-way radios vs mobile smartphones. Take a look at this short video for a typical manufacturing downtime scenario where two-way radio communication wins hands down:
Understandably, cost is a key factor. On the surface, consumer-grade mobile phones may seem alluring as their initial outlay is relatively low. But, as depicted in this infographic, you have to also consider costs such as lost productivity due to consumer devices being 3x more likely to fail than digital radios2. When you bear in mind that each failure costs 80 minutes of productivity and over 2.5 hours of support time2, then the financial evidence is compelling - with 50% higher costs cover 5 years3.
It's not surprising when you think that consumer mobile devices are simply not built for warehouse or factory environments. Whilst on the other hand, MOTOTRBO digital two-way radios are specifically designed to operate reliably over a full shift - despite drops onto concrete floors, temperature extremes, and more. All this results in less downtime and a longer service life.
It doesn't end there. Recent research into the mobile smartphone v digital radio, conducted by VDC, highlights further unique ways that digital two-way radios help increase productivity, improve resolution time, and protect workers in manufacturing plants:
1. Private and secure communication via a closed network.
2. Excellent audio clarity and wide coverage - with no blackspots.
3. Immediate and reliable voice-based communication.
4. Specialised data services such as work ticket management.
5. Instant one-to-many group communication.
Largely due to the BYOD trend, consumer mobile devices are widespread in the workplace. But it's clear that the use of mobile phones on the plant floor is not an effective way of communicating in a demanding environment that has its very own unique set of challenges.
1 "The Hidden Cost of Downtime: A Strategy for Improving Return on Assets", Maintenance Technology
2 "Enterprise Mobility and Connected Devices", VDC Research, Aug 2013
3 "Mobile Device TCO Models for Line of Business Solutions", VDC Research, March 2013