All work and no play? How manufacturing can benefit from gamification

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The manufacturing industry has faced increasing global competition over the past decade, and the vote for Brexit has only exacerbated the need for British manufacturing to work even harder to maintain or grow their share of the market. But how to achieve this? In today’s brutal economic climate, increasing employee pay is not always an option. A more feasible retention strategy focuses on increasing employee engagement. According to a recent study, engaged employees are 70% more productive and have a 78% higher safety record, with businesses experiencing 70% lower employee turnover and 44% greater profitability.

So how can companies achieve employee engagement within the manufacturing industry? The answer might be in – Gamification – the concept of applying game mechanics and design techniques to enhance user experience – promises increased productivity and employee morale for any organisation clever enough to find a way to gamify their work. Whilst assembly line production; highly repetitive labour and constant productivity pressure with little freedom in the process flow, may not seem the ideal candidate for gamification, in environments where people are already sharing and linking to each other, such as engineering and manufacturing, it’s a natural fit.

Siemens has found success with PlantVille, based on the popular Zynga game FarmVille, where players have to operate their plant, juggle multiple responsibilities and make key decisions that affect the overall livelihood of the entire facility. Players are measured on factors such as quality, employee satisfaction, safety, and timeliness; just like in the plant itself. There are currently 23,000 registered users in 150 countries, and 87% of Plantville players would recommend the game.

Similarly, Ford Motor Company added gamification to its learning portals to help sales and service teams become experts on their new car models, technology, and financing plans, producing a 417% increase in worker use. They found their younger audience responded particularly strongly to the new strategy; critical to block the gap growing between manufacturing workers set to retire in the next 10 to 15 years and the workers needed to fill their vacancies.

Workers on a production line have strong social bonds and have a greater performance boost when a team incentive is offered; but only when performance information is available in a transparent way. After all, how do we know that others are working well if there is no way for us to see them work or for them to see us work?

Dashboard technology lends itself to gamification because it is used to process different data streams and simplifies it into more manageable chunks of visual information that allows you to see what you are doing right and where you need to improve. For example, this could be shown as horses on a race track which proceed towards a jump each time a task is completed, driving a positive business outcome. A team’s status is clearly visible, so even when users are not competing against each other, there is still incentive to further motivate staff. It also becomes easier to keep teams aware of their top performers and contest contenders with leader boards. Dashboards can show you exactly where your trouble areas are and arm you with the information you need to improve. Also by making the dashboards visible throughout the company, it holds different departments directly accountable for their productivity.

To keep players engaged over a long period of time, a game must intensify in difficulty and in reward and that’s not a tough thing to do, even when you’re working in the manufacturing, shipping, and warehouse industries. As shown above, we have examples of several brands who have managed to achieve this.

All the evidence shows that, when employed correctly, gamification is able to motivate employees, create healthy competition among teams and generate a ‘buzz’ at work. We’re increasingly talking to our customers about gamification and the response has been very positive. As a result, we are building gamification into the next version of our dashboards, available early 2017.

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