Practical Applications of Twitter in Manufacturing?
Over the past few weeks I've had a couple of interesting discussions
about the introduction of Twitter to Manufacturing. When someone poses a
question like this to me, it throws me for a minor loop, because for
very basic, practical reasons, it just doesn't seem to apply. More
keyboards & data entry on the floor? Not likely.
However, a few months ago I wrote this rather
, expounding on a brainstorm regarding the use of
in a manufacturing setting. Back then, my summary point was about the
value of alternative mechanisms for capturing and distributing
. I noted that Twitter was less intimidating than other
tools - it's all about capturing status or best practices. But after the
past few months of heavier use (
), I typically explain Twitter as a keyboard-enhanced conversation - a
"false path" for
aficionados if you are trying to capture knowledge (the
But Twitter as an alternative communication medium for folks on the
floor? I really don't think it's a good fit - and this is based on
practical experience as well as a little common sense.
The Tweeter as Information Source
Are you trying to understand how Twitter would work in your environment?
Don't think you can get it right without some decent hands-on time.
You'll find that it's very intrusive - not something that you want on
100% of the time. For me, it makes sense when I'm catching up on notes
for the day, clearing e-mails, scheduling meetings, or other lighter
work that doesn't suffer greatly from periodic chirps from my
. It's running on the second monitor; every once in while I will glance
over to scan the latest potentially valuable conversations to jump into.
This scenario would
on the manufacturing floor. There's no way the Environmental Health
& Safety folks will allow
to distract folks from completing the tasks at their workstation.
Besides, hitting the keyboard for status updates is exactly the kind of
non-value-adding data entry that Lean mavens are working to eliminate.
Note that when I say "non-value-adding", I am referring to
; standard work, training and knowledge retention are important in a
Lean world, but not while you're actually getting work done.
The Tweeter as Information Consumer
On the other hand, if there is a Tweetdeck-style application available,
running on a screen that is visible to an entire workcenter - well,
maybe the folks on the floor can be _consumers_ of Tweets. Then again,
it's just another
application, nothing Twitter-specific.
Web 2.0 Technology and Manufacturing
Are manufacturing firms using Twitter? I'd say that few are - and it's
based on the "personality" of a typical manufacturing company.
- IT is typically <3% of total revenue - not an environment
that fosters experimentation / cutting edge IT work
- Lean is a growing force in manufacturing, and Lean is
decidedly anti-computer - so no one will have a keyboard
at the ready to start Tweeting!
Now, to be fair, you could cherry pick high-tech manufacturers;
certainly, there are many engineering departments that are sharing
information and communicating real time. But when I hear "manufacturing"
I'm thinking line managers, shift supervisors ... not typically the
keyboard types. They like their
phones, and that's really all the instant communication they need.
Aren't there any potential benefits of Twitter for manufacturing?
Directly - not much, I'm afraid. However, as with any area of the
business that traffics in knowledge capital, the Design Engineering and
Manufacturing Engineering folks might find benefit in
information-sharing collaborative networks and "real-time" connections.
Note, however, that I am greatly interested in hearing counter-examples
of the above. Anyone aware of interesting Twitter-ing on the floor?