Effective Communication Strategies for Ongoing Plant Upgrades
Playwright George Bernard Shaw once stated that “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This statement applies to many life and business situations but is especially true for industrial facilities undergoing plant upgrades.
Plant upgrades are an ongoing necessity as technology continues to advance and existing equipment no longer functions as required. Upgrades can be lengthy and challenging and can result in anxiety among employees who do not understand the process and question how the upgrade will impact them.
Plant managers may think communication efforts relative to plant upgrades are sufficient when, in fact, they may generate even more questions among employees. Developing and implementing effective communication strategies can keep workers updated on the plant upgrade, its purpose and progress while helping to garner the support needed to improve processes and increase productivity.
Creating a Strategic Communications Plan
Ongoing communication is essential when a plant wants to convey the details of an upgrade, its necessity and advantages. Creating and implementing a strategic communications plan can help keep workers, the plant management team and others informed – and engaged – as appropriate.
The strategic communications plan will likely include the following:
Messaging – What is the big idea plant management wants to communicate? Perhaps the plant upgrade will make the company more competitive (and help ensure job security). Or it may make the plant safer. Consider lessons learned during previous upgrades when determining the messaging.
Target audiences – Effective communication will be shaped to the audience that receives it. Plan to communicate regularly with both internal and external teams, including the plant owner/manager, the design-build firm or engineering, employees, department leaders, equipment vendors and subcontractors.
Objectives – Determine how the audience should respond to the messaging. Some communications efforts strive to raise awareness among target audiences while others seek to inspire changes in thought or behavior.
Communication channels – The channels used for communication may include email, telephone, texts, one-on-one discussions, plant or department meetings, the company website and intranet, personal letters, etc. Select the mediums that will best connect with target audiences.
Communications timeline – The communications timeline should coincide with the upgrade schedule and provide target audiences with regular updates. Keep the schedule flexible and update as needed.
Feedback – Feedback is essential throughout the update communications process to gauge the audience’s response to the messaging and confirm that no misunderstandings occur.
Approval – Once the strategic communications plan is complete, provide it to plant leadership for review and approval. Invite feedback and suggestions and re-write the plan as necessary until everyone agrees with and hopefully supports the communication strategy.
Identifying a Spokesperson(s)
Having a trustworthy and believable spokesperson is essential to the credibility of the messaging. The spokesperson role may be filled by the CEO if he or she is onsite or the plant manager.
According to Reliable Plant, face-to-face is the preferred method when CEOs and other managers communicate with employees. Many employees also appreciate small group communication, depending on the subject matter’s importance.
All spokespersons should use language that is distinctly theirs and reflects their values. Communication should not be overly corporate in tone as the messaging will not come through as authentic and real. Employees at all levels respect authenticity and are much more willing to follow true leaders as opposed to corporate puppets.
The spokesperson should use first person as appropriate to give words greater weight. Examples include “I would like you to…” or,” I want you to know…”
Every spokesperson must be adept at placing the audience at ease. President Obama, for example, often employed the term “folks” rather than “people” to gain listeners’ attention and trust, and he interspersed the phrase “you know” into his speeches to engage the audience. Having the ability to place employees at ease also encourages feedback.
Even though plant managers openly discuss an ongoing facility update and its purpose, the question inevitably arises, how will the changes affect me? When employees ask this question, the workers’ direct supervisor should respond as he or she has the most influence over what employees hear and how they react.
Implementing new technology or operating equipment that results from a plant upgrade typically requires communication in the form of an employee training program. Contracts for plant upgrades often specify that a certain amount of worker/operator training must occur prior to utilizing new technology and equipment.
The vendor may send an engineer or trainer to the site to provide this training. The training, however, will not be effective if the vendor trainer does not have the expertise to supply the instruction required.
Most plant updates include new technology and equipment that most workers have never seen before and have no idea how to operate. Plants may want to hire outside training consultants or specialists to provide the specific training required as generic off-the-shelf training has the potential to be misleading and even wrong or outdated.
An experienced, proficient trainer will invest the time needed to ensure all manuals and employee training plans and materials are updated and are correct and customized to the plant configuration. The trainer will also make plant visits, conduct interviews and gather references to ensure the information provided during training is current and accurate.
Piping Systems as Part of Plant Updates
For many years, metal piping systems were the status quo for most industrial applications. Metal piping, however, corrodes and degrades quickly in the presence of highly corrosive chemicals used for processes across many industries.
While the effects and severity of piping system corrosion will vary by application, corrosion can lead to problems such as pressure rating decreases resulting from thinning walls and a slower flow rate that demands more from pumps. The fluid used in the process can become contaminated as corroded pieces break off and float away, which is a significant concern in applications that require high levels of purity.
Designers often specify Corzan CPVC® during plant upgrades as the thermoplastic technology is specifically engineered to withstand the aggressive chemicals and other challenges common to industrial process environments. Corzan CPVC offers the following performance advantages:
- Outstanding resistance to the most aggressive chemicals
- Smooth inner surface to resist scaling and fouling
- High temperature and pressure performance
- Mechanical strength and excellent hydraulic capabilities
- Weatherability and UV radiation resistance
- Ignition, burning and flame spread resistance
- Lower installation and maintenance costs
Corzan CPVC piping systems offer over 60 years of proven success in a range of challenging industrial environments worldwide, increasing productivity and reducing capital and life-cycle costs. To learn more about how Corzan CPVC meets industrial plant needs or for help training employees about piping, contact a Corzan Piping System Consultant or a partner manufacturer.