Cell Phones and Radios in the Shop?

Woodshop owners discuss phone and radio policies, shop surveillance cameras, and more. July 30, 2009

I am wondering if some of you have a cell phone policy in your shop. Do you have a “no cell phone in the shop” policy? Or do you just figure on no raises with too much phone use. What would you think is too much phone use? Texting is a big problem to. How do other shops handle it? Also does anyone have cameras in their shops for when the boss isn't around?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor S:
They are distractions and distractions cause accidents. Distractions do not belong in the shop. Don't even bring them into the shop. No exceptions and that includes the boss. Make it policy. Failure to follow policy is grounds for termination.

From contributor B:
We allow radios, cell phones, provide a land line for the shop to use. My expectation is that it won't be abused and it hasn't been. We have a policy to use phones at break times and lunch and it's pretty well followed. I haven't seen anyone texting. Our employees know and understand what the policy is and follow it. Again, I think it's a matter of expectations. No cameras to watch employees, this isn't prison. There are working supervisors on the floor all day.

From contributor W:
They have MP3’s, but must sign a waiver for liability on hearing damage, and must be able to hear and understand a normal conversation. They have cell phones, but know they aren't supposed to talk or text during work hours. That one is strongly enforced. Yes, we would all like our employees to operate like machines, but they are not. It depends on how you set your policy on day one. It’s tough to take away a valued benefit, such as MP3s. I would also like them to not take restroom breaks or get coffee during work hours, but that isn't going to happen soon.

From contributor J:
There's nothing harsh about our policy. We used to allow radios in the shop until it became a distraction that led to several errors that were attributable to inattention. We later banned cell phones after employees were seen breaking the rule that allowed their use only during breaks and lunch. Then one joker thought he could get away by using a Bluetooth headset - wrong. Mostly this texting fad is simple nonsense - pure and simple. Most people text simply to be texting. In most cases, there's no point to it.

From contributor G:
No cell phones. I used to allow them but they got abused. If they need to make or receive a call they can use the landline. Funny how then it is not an emergency. No talk radio but music is okay. They can do what they want during break.

From contributor H:
The cameras idea is a hoot. Is there anyone out there that does that? If so, I would love to hear some stories about what the employees did when the cameras were installed. Sounds like a license to vandalize. Perhaps there is a way cameras could be installed that would feel fair. There could be cameras set up in the office as well as the shop, and the monitors could be in the shop and office. No cell phones in the shop seems to be a continuation of the standard "no personal (land line) calls on the clock" policies that many shops have.

From contributor J:
Our turnover rate is so low that I don't even know what it is. If someone quits because of our radio/cell phone policy, then I don't want them here anyway - their priorities are faulty. Our shop foreman celebrated his 15 year anniversary in December. One reason our turnover is so low is that we don't "over-hire," but instead use temps as much as possible, and we pay well and bonus well when business and employee performance is good.

Oh, and I didn't mention stolen tools, abandoned delivery trucks on weekend long-hauls, stolen petty cash, quitting with loans/advances owed (loans/advances in excess of owed salary also now against company policy). That's the end of my discussion about our company policies and details. The final point is that personal electronic devices in the facility should not be and are not a problem. It's such a simple issue that so much discussion about it is unnecessary.

From contributor S:
Contributor J is absolutely right. Work is called work because it's not a place of entertainment. I want the employee's full attention on his safety and my bottom line. I am ok with music on a radio, but nothing with head phones or distractions like cell phones. Many times you can hear a problem with a machine before it totally goes bad. Head phones prevent this. As far as phones, the shop has a landline and the family can call if it's an emergency any time. I don't put non emergency calls through to employees unless it is lunch or break time.

From contributor B:
Cell phone policies are not bad for a shop to a point. I have reprimanded several employees for the misuse of cell phones. After the reprimand, the employees started following the guidelines of the policy. A total cell phone ban is not an option. I have two guys that have special needs children at home and need to have a direct line to their families in case of emergency.

As far as banning MP3 players and radios, this is a little above and beyond. I have been in the industry for over twenty five years and I encourage background noise. This keeps down idle chatter amongst employees. In my current job, radios were banned since the owner did not like hearing anything as he was walking through the shop. Since I have taken over operations I have torn this page out of the employee handbook (in front of the employees) and explained my policy on radios in the shop. We were running 25K per week in production before bringing the radios back. Now we are operating at 118K per week with the radios. After bringing this to the owner’s attention he installed a stereo system in the shop for the employees.

As far as cameras, owners think that this is a good idea. I have worked in two shops that had installed cameras. Both were not able to catch a thief in the shop. As picture quality is not up to par. One company spent 180K on cameras and the quality wasn't any better than one you can get at Fry's. Also keep in mind that when you install cameras you will have to pay someone to monitor them. So it could cost anywhere from 15k to 35k per year to monitor. If you don't trust the people working for you it is cheaper to let them go. I agree that the shop is not a prison. So we do not treat it like one. Everyone has a job and if they are working for you they should know their job. This is what we have shop foremen for.

From contributor G:
Contributor B - are you saying that with the radios alone production was increased almost five fold?

From contributor B:
Radios, along with setting guidelines for production. Like I said before, the owner became friends with the employees so he wasn't taken seriously. So I would say radios increased performance by about 45% and guidelines 55%. This was measured after production guidelines were set in place and radios were two weeks after.

From contributor O:
What gets checked or measured gets done. I find it hard to believe radios had much to do with it.

From contributor B:
I keep daily records of jobs released to the floor along with individual assemblies (by employees) part production and tact time. Therefore, I can forecast my production dollars vs. labor dollars to the penny. This in turn shows our overall production ratio.

Once you make a change in the shop, start the clock running again and test the results in two week intervals. This gives you actual production value or production loss. This was done with new production policies then two weeks later with the radios. If you do this and get a negative result, change it back to the way you had it before – Lean Manufacturing 101.

From contributor S:
Playing a radio cannot possibly increase performance by 45%. If a radio could have this affect on performance there wouldn't be a job in the world that didn't have a radio playing in the background. Performance increased because the employees are doing more work now than they did before you started playing the radio. They are not doing more work because the radio is playing. They are doing more work now because they know you are now expecting more work from them. Turn the radio off and see what happens. Tell the employees that if their production decreases and they want to blame the decrease on the radio being off, they can look for a job elsewhere.

You might actually find out that their production increases with the radio off because now they have their full attention on the job and not some attention on the job and some attention on the radio. They now know what performance levels are acceptable to you and because you continue to monitor their performance they will continue to perform at or above acceptable levels. They now know that if they fall below acceptable levels they run the risk of being terminated. This is what is really motivating your employees to perform well.