Aker Solutions (AKSO) used to have physical suggestion boxes dotted around its yards. These were an important component of its continuous improvement work, but people gradually stopped using them, and they ended up gathering dust instead. Basically, it turned out that this kind of system just doesn’t work anymore.
Lowering The Threshold
The new solution comes in the form of a mobile app and computer software. The app makes it easy for any employee in a yard to suggest improvements. “Issues brought up in the suggestion box tend to be about quality, practical improvement processes and measures that could help to improve HSE in someone’s workplace,” explains SINTEF researcher Ottar Bakås. When an employee thinks of a way in which something could be improved, all they have to do is get out their mobile, take a photo or make a video, and enter some keywords. The fact that it is so easy lowers the threshold for making suggestions. “It used to be more rigid. If you had a good idea, you had to write it down and put it in a postbox, which was probably in a different part of the yard,” says Bakås. As a result, Aker probably missed out on countless good suggestions.
Easy To Use
“The app is really easy to use. It’s user-friendly, especially for someone working out in the yard, because all they have to do is take a photo and then later, when they have time, draw on it and write a brief summary explaining their suggestion. This makes it easy to communicate and get processes started. That’s probably the best thing about the solution,” says Haga. He explains that problems which may have been annoying employees for a long time have now moved onto the agenda and been dealt with. An example of a specific suggestion is the idea of using leather covers for welding cushions so that they don’t wear out so quickly.
Supporting The Aker Model
“The suggestion box enables decisions to be made at the lowest possible level and gets the people who are closest to the work situation involved in making those decisions,” Bakås explains. As well as the feature for submitting suggestions, the system has an additional function for bigger improvement projects that require greater investment. The digital system supports AKSO’s excellent long tradition of cooperation between employee representatives and employees, often known as the Aker model. “In this model, various working committees, representing a broad spectrum of employees, are involved in deciding which improvement initiatives should be prioritized. This means that the suggestion box supports the company democracy and gives the working committees a good tool with which to gather all the relevant information…”
The development process has benefited from a high degree of user participation and involvement. That is essential if you want to develop digital solutions that work well for the people who use them. “We’ve worked closely with the end users. They were able to make suggestions throughout the process and helped to test solutions and interfaces. As a result, many of them were familiar with the new system when it was rolled out,” Storholmen explains.
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