What are the first words you think of when someone asks you, “What do you think it would be like to work on a factory floor?”
If you are like many Americans, the following words come to mind:
Despite Manufacturing Day events, which include plant floor tours, this public perception of manufacturing work remains in many people’s minds.
However, I have been fortunate enough to work in manufacturing facilities and have toured dozens more throughout my career. I can assure you; this perception could not be farther from reality. In fact, I have found the following to be true with regards to the modern-day manufacturing floor:
Factories are clean
The vast majority of manufacturing facilities have floors you can literally eat off of. Great care and time are put into making sure floors are clean, as clean floors promote safety to employees and visitors. In addition, floor supervisors and workers are generally held responsible for the cleanliness of their work areas and many take great pride in doing so.
Factories are NOT sweat shops
Heating and cooling many manufacturing facilities is cost prohibitive due to their size and the fact that most have large doors to receive and ship product that are open many times during a day. Many manufacturers, however, do absolutely everything they can to make the work day comfortable for their floor workers. This includes installing fans and infrared heaters to mitigate hot and cold days; using automatic retractable doors to lessen air coming in from shipping doors; and offering relief centers to provide hydration during the summer heat.
Factory floors are safe
Management in a manufacturing facility understands the importance of safety to the bottom line. If someone gets hurt on the job, they will file a worker’s compensation claim, which can cost the company a lot of money. Therefore, safety in a manufacturing facility is everyone’s job. Many manufacturers have morning safety meetings and regular safety audits. Many also have a person at the facility responsible for keeping everyone safe by providing training, conducting internal safety audits and maintaining supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Manufacturers Care About their Team’s Wellbeing
While production work can be hard, manufacturers provide many resources to help employees do their job with minimal stress on their bodies. The strenuous nature of manufacturing production floor work is normally associated with long hours of standing and reaching for product, as well as lifting heavy items. In the past, this has resulted in injuries such as carpal tunnel and back strain. However, manufacturers have invested in equipment such as pads to stand on to reduce strain, robotics to move material and lift tables to assist with lifting heavy product. States have also produced reference materials to help manufacturers reduce workplace injuries, such as this fact sheet from the state of Ohio: Ergonomic Best Practices for Manufacturing. In addition, some states are providing funding in the form of grants for manufacturers to invest in injury preventing tools.
In my experience over 25 years, I have found that, while not every manufacturing floor is clean, safe and easy to work in, the vast majority of manufacturing facilities are. If you are considering a career in manufacturing, take a tour of a potential employer’s manufacturing floor prior to being hired. If they exhibit the characteristics of safe and clean facilities as noted above, you are likely to be happy working there.