Comment: Use technology to improve global communication

2 min read

Technology can improve communication – and remove barriers - across global manufacturing teams, says Arjun Chandar, founder and CEO of IndustrialML, Inc.

Manufacturing, even within a single factory, has become a global enterprise. It is far from unusual to have team members communicate across several different languages and time zones. Just looking at the partners of IndustrialML as an example - there are workers from the East and West coasts of the US, Japan, Singapore, India, Vietnam, and Europe. That's already seven time zones covered for a roughly 200-person company.

Time zones and locations are far from the only hurdles faced by manufacturing teams. Different countries naturally have their own unique local customs and variances within workflows and holidays. Most companies already use meeting tools such as Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams, perhaps with the aid of tools like Calendly to account for varying time zones. However, video communication is costly in terms of time and not accessible for those actually working on operations or engineering work.

So, what methods can manufacturers use to get around this communication barrier?

Real-time language translation in manufacturing

Modern native language communication is a vital cog in a factory’s wheel. It begins with internationalisation which is the theory of building software so that it can be moved into different languages without additional engineering work. Then, localisation is the result of translating the text into what suits that particular locale.

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Manufacturing doesn’t lend itself well to Google Translate, as there is so much jargon associated with the industry. A common software application that makes it much easier to translate texts or factories is get.text. This localisation program creates a script alongside a set of keywords, previously established with the customer, and then this translation can be applied to any element of the product. Using these localisation and internationalisation tools is a great way to increase the factory’s productivity and enhance the feedback loop from the improved communication with production floor workers.

Real-time data monitoring and communication system

IndustrialML uses real-time data from PLCs, other enterprise software, audio, and camera sensors, before get.text presents all the information in whatever language is appropriate to the IP address you are logging in from. For example, if you log into your site from Japan, everything will automatically be presented in Japanese. Furthermore, this type of translation tool can also be applied to speech software. Suppose an operator is on the production floor and an alert comes up that says a particular metric has fluctuated massively. In that case, that message can go to the operator’s audio headset instead of a dashboard. This is a huge step forward in terms of operational safety, as it stops floor workers from being distracted by too many visual notifications.

This can work in terms of the other direction too - capturing speech from production floor workers and returning it as the translated text makes the communication between, say, a welding operator on an Indian steel line and an executive in New York much slicker. This means that we can flip the concept of digital transformation as a top-down, executive-led approach and turn it into a collaborative one involving all the stakeholders of a manufacturing organisation.

Manufacturers should also aim to simplify the information when communicating globally. That means having more discrete categories of messages, which are much easier to understand than information presented as prose (which is the way video meeting software tends to work). The various communication solutions mentioned above ease an organisation’s worries with regard to team members understanding specific instructions - clear communication systems allow global teams to function at their best.

Arjun Chandar, founder and CEO of IndustrialML, Inc.