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Industry 4.0 Work Instructions

Improving Workplace Safety with Better Digital Instructions

21 min read - published on December 12, 2018


Learn how intelligent digital instructions can help make the workplace safer for the manufacturing, heavy machinery, and food and beverage industries.


Talk to anyone in the manufacturing industry and ask them what they prioritize most for their workers on the factory floor. It doesn’t matter if it’s the CEO, an accountant, or a floor manager. Nine times out of ten, they’ll tell you that safety is their number one concern.


At SwipeGuide, we think that’s fantastic. 


Obviously, safety is incredibly important in every industry. We want everyone, in every job, to be happy and healthy and perform at their absolute best. But there’s a reason that safety is a top concern for the movers and shakers in the manufacturing industry. Frequently, a safe workplace can mean the difference between success and failure.



cost unsafe manufacturing


The cost of an unsafe workplace.

An unsafe work environment will have far-reaching negative effects. Some are immediately noticeable, while others are subtle and might take time to show in your workplace. 

Industrial catastrophes are our worst fear. They are violent, devastating, and can happen in an instant. Accidents also come at an incredible cost. Serious, nonfatal accidents cost EU businesses €476 billion every year and have far-reaching effects.

But it’s more than the monetary cost. Businesses often suffer because of the unseen factors that linger in the workplace after an accident. The devastation of an injury will have an impact on the morale of every employee. This can cause a serious loss in productivity on the factory floor. 

If you work in the food and beverage industry, safety means much more than avoiding accidents. You must ensure and maintain rigid food safety standards and routinely pass strict certification guidelines. Any failure to do so could mean hefty fines, loss of distribution, lawsuits, and potentially the end of your business.


Safety in the modern workplace.

Safety takes many forms. Sometimes, the things we need to do to stay safe are incredibly obvious. Sometimes, they’re much more subtle and require the attention of everyone involved in the manufacturing process. We’ve gathered some of the most prevalent safety issues facing the workforce today. 


Proper maintenance. 

Any factory relies on its machinery. Our production goals and the safety of our employees hinge on the fact that every machine on the factory floor runs as it should. Proper maintenance and diagnostics are essential to ensure that equipment operates safely and at peak performance. 

  • Your machinery should be inspected routinely by experts throughout its entire lifecycle. This is essential to maintaining operational efficiency and safe working conditions.
  • However, routine inspections are only part of the equation. Employees need to be able to efficiently diagnose and report any issues with equipment or factory processes. One of the best ways to incorporate this into your process is to require simple machine inspections, performed by employees after each use. 
  • In the same line of thinking, every employee needs to be familiar with the optimal performance of each step in the manufacturing process. This allows everyone to detect the early warning signs of potential failures and unsafe conditions.


automated factory safety


Nonhuman workers. 

As interactions between humans and their automated counterparts increase, they will have to get along. Digitalization presents solutions to safety concerns, such as better monitoring systems on robotic employees. However, the onset of Industry 4.0 will present unique safety challenges for the modern human worker. 

  • Experts agree that humans in manufacturing are here to stay. However, the roles of the human on the factory floor will change rapidly as processes become digitized. 
  • Therefore, it will be essential to support human employees as they deal with the stress of a rapidly changing industry.
  • While humans will not be excluded from the factory floor of the future, jobs will be scarcer and thus competition, both at work and in the job market, will increase. Employees will need adequate means to reduce stress. 
  • Robotic workers are able to work endlessly, and do not require the same complex resources and attention as human workers. The physical and performance demands placed on human workers need to be reasonable, and should not be measured against the same standards as robot workers.


Repetitive and monotonous work.

Dramatic industrial accidents are our worst fear. However, you must also consider the toll that routine manual labor can take on a worker’s body and mind.

  • Any type of manual labor can be physically detrimental over time if proper precautions are not put in place. 
  • Even if the tasks are not particularly robust, small repetitive tasks can cause medical issues in the hands, arms, and eyes.
  • Tasks that are seen as monotonous or unfulfilling can cause stress, depression, and an increase in substance abuse problems. These factors will increase the risk of an industrial accident.

food quality safety


Food quality and safety. 

Effective safety procedures aren’t just for workers in a dangerous manufacturing environment. In the food and beverage industry, safety means that you must meet stringent food quality guidelines. 

  • Standards in the food and beverage industry change frequently. Make sure that your company implements continual revision and improvement of work instructions.
  • It’s not enough just to have your policies and procedures up to date. This information needs to be readily accessible to employees. All information should be available in real-time with simple digital work instructions.
  • The workforce in the food and beverage industry can be especially dynamic. Make sure digital training procedures can be adapted efficiently for a diverse, multilingual seasonal workforce.


Next steps.

The manufacturing industry is a dynamic environment, and creating a safe workplace requires constant assessment and vigilance. You can take three steps today to make safety a reality in your workforce.


Live it.

Safety impacts every worker. It’s not enough to give cursory attention to safety procedures, they must become an integral part of your company. Safety must become a culture.

  • Include safety in your company values.
  • Most companies will have a clearly defined set of values that impact all decision making processes and actions within the corporate culture. This is a great tool for evaluating any decision in relation to your company’s ideology.
  • Do you have a set of core company values? If not, we strongly recommend collaborating with leadership to develop them. 
  • If safety is included as one of these values, it will make it much easier to keep it at the forefront of the decision-making process. Moving forward, all projects can be evaluated with safety in mind.

Treat it.

Once safety becomes an integral part of your company culture, it’s time to address the existing, or perhaps unavoidable, safety concerns that exist in any manufacturing workforce. It’s important that you provide comprehensive solutions to the health or safety difficulties that arise.

  • Make sure you treat human workers like humans. As our workforce becomes increasingly automated, it’s essential to recognize the specialized care that all people need.
  • Offer services to take care of employees’ physical and emotional well being. These could be in the form of routine physicals, stress management programs, or nutritional and lifestyle counselling.
  • Adopting preemptive strategies like those listed above will help prevent accidents and productivity loss in the future, and keep your workforce happy and healthy.

Learn it.

Rigorous, high-quality training is absolutely essential for workplace safety and optimal productivity. An undertrained employee is an incredible liability to themselves and the workforce at large.

  • The simple fact is, if employees do not know how to use equipment properly, it can be incredibly dangerous for everyone involved in the manufacturing process.
  • As digital innovations become commonplace, machines will continue to change rapidly and become increasingly complex. 
  • Employees need a training solution that can scale with rapidly changing technology. Updated machines and procedures need consistently updated instructions.
  • Remember that your workers are your best resource. Approach the development of training material as a collaborative effort. Seek out training software that prioritizes feedback from your workforce.
  • Effective instructions are not just for machines and factory processes. All safety procedures such as evacuation routes, emergency shutoffs, and other essential information should be centrally located and available digitally, anywhere in the factory.
  • High-quality digital instructions will also allow employees to make equipment inspection a part of their daily routine. It should be easy for any employee to check a machine against an industry standard.



Do any of these problems sound familiar? 

If you work in a modern industrial application, chances are that at least one, if not many, of these issues is something that you or your colleagues have dealt with personally. Safety problems can be frustrating and devastating.

Take the steps you need to make the workplace a safer, more efficient place that meets all modern industrial standards. Place priority on happy employees and easy access to simple, well-structured information in a digital format.

published December 12, 2018


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