Kerry Group's Best Practices for Rolling Out a Connected Worker App on the Factory Floor

Boost Asset Performance Become a Paperless Factory Digital Work Instructions & Troubleshoots Forms & Checklists

Executive Summary

Implementing and operationalizing a Connected Worker app on the factory floor can be a daunting task for global manufacturers with diverse production sites around the world. Varying operational needs and challenges, combined with limited time and resources and a changing workforce, are a few of the many things to consider when trying to decide whether it's the right time to deploy a Connected Worker app or not.

So we asked Ben Cottrell, Senior Operations Manager at Kerry Group, to share his recent experience implementing Poka in just two weeks using a small and nimble team at a site in Rothschild, WI. The plant is looking to Poka to reduce downtime and increase worker productivity in an effort to keep up with increasing customer demand for its products. So, going live as quickly as possible was essential.

Kerry omagh facility employee wearing ppe smiling 717 retina

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Tell us about Kerry and what you do there as senior operations manager

Kerry is a nutrition business that strives to provide innovative solutions to its customers. This year we are celebrating 50 years in business. We started as a small dairy cooperative in the southwest of Ireland. We now have 150 plants across 30 countries spanning six continents and around 50,000 employees between our sales and operations teams and all support functions.

I work as a senior operations manager and I support a number of our key growth sites. My day-to-day role is made up of supporting Kerry’s reputation of having a safe work environment, stabilizing production quality and ensuring we're getting more consistency. I also support our growth capacity at these sites through process technology improvements and capital improvements. I work very hands-on with the plant leadership teams and factory floor workers as well. This is probably what I enjoy the most as I get to engage with people, see things firsthand and spend a lot of time on the floor with people.

What are Kerry’s 2023 goals and priorities and how does a connected worker app help to address them?

We’re always trying to grow our output so that we can provide products that go into medicine that serve the population. Our main goal is to supply customers with quality products in a safe and sustainable manner. One of my main tasks is to figure out how we continue to fulfill our customers' needs. Bringing that back to the factory floor, we need to reduce downtime and drive better productivity out of our sites. Poka’s connected worker app helps us to reduce downtime by leveraging digital forms to drive better accountability and reduce bad habits and waste. We also had a lot of people retiring and more people that are about to retire. So, we needed to future-proof our sites by digitizing our work instructions so that both current employees and new hires could easily access them.

What were some of the challenges that Kerry faced prior to implementing Poka?

An example of some of the challenges we faced is during shift changeovers. Let’s say I'm ending my day shift but I'm only midway through a wash which used to take 1.5 hours. I hand that over to the incoming operator. In many cases, they weren't speaking to each other so the incoming operator didn't know where the previous person was in the wash. So the wash took longer, and it created confusion and frustration between the shifts. So what we did is map out the wash procedure in the checklist capabilities of Poka and every person now has to sign off on what they did and take photos to demonstrate that it was done per the acceptable standard. 

We’ve saved about an hour per wash with the streamlined process. If you do 50 to 60 washes in a year on a line, that’s over 50 hours of production time back. This means we can get another 60 to 70 metric tons of production out, which is a two to three percent increase in capacity. The other challenge that we had previously with our paper forms is that they would get very wet and tear. So now with the iPads, they're very robust and covered. They’re able to walk around with them. The other thing is the forms are time-stamped. So it prevents people from ticking two or three items off at one time. You know the person signed off on this step at 10:15. The next step took 30 minutes because the person signed off at 10:45. So, it also allows us to time trial each step as well.

What were your initial launch goals?

Our primary goal was to go live with the solution as quickly as we could so that we have something that we can continue to build on. So far we've proven that it's successful. It’s doing what was advertised to us. Now, we want more. We want to add more forms and more skills. We want to add videos to our work instructions. So, initially it was just to get online, prove that it works, and then get everybody to start using it before we do more and more.

How did you determine which sites and use cases to get started with?

It was based on where we had the greatest need. In our Rothschild site, with recent retirements and more new people starting and learning all at the same time, it was easier from a change management perspective than starting with a more tenured group. Also, it’s a much more automated site. So there's less need for work instructions for example on how to take a quality sample, how to do proper sanitation of a line, how to do a clean, etc. And in terms of where we started at the site, that was in our three lines that dry the product - the upstream area is where we have the most people.

What were the key phases and milestones of your solution launch?

The first milestone before was doing some internal ICT hardware testing, security screening, and internet testing. That was an important milestone on Kerry’s side. Then the second milestone was the scoping call with Poka where we talked through our needs. And then the training and onboarding was the third milestone. It took us two weeks to go live with the initial scope, and then five weeks later we had all the training and onboarding done. We’re working on our fourth stage now which is embedding Poka into habits. And then our fifth milestone will be when it’s fully BAU - business as usual - where Poka is used every day by operators. They come in and the first thing they do is they go into Poka to see the previous shift’s notes on the shift handover. They use the checklists and work instructions, etc. And that’s where we're being very hands-on with the operators on the floor to change behavior, and give them feedback, etc. If we see someone who isn’t logging on frequently, we ask them why. We have already identified one shift that doesn't use it as much as the others. So we are being a bit more surgical with that shift and pushing them to use it more and have a lot more governance around it.

What internal resources did you need to launch the solution in two weeks?

We were fortunate with how quickly we were able to go live. It took us two weeks for the initial scope. We were quite a nimble team. It was myself, a production supervisor, a training coordinator, a training supervisor and we also got support from the production manager. The training coordinator was dedicated full-time to the project. So pretty much we had two dedicated resources working on Poka. Then, the production manager, the plant manager and I supported them by making sure they were kept free and not overburdened. From a content side, we had about 40 or 50 SOPs already created digitally, so we were able to do a quick mass import.

How did Poka support you through implementation and launch?

Starting early on with the sales team - Our account manager was fantastic when we were working through the project with our ICT teams. Our account manager made them feel at ease by explaining what Poka is, how it can be used, discussing safety options and security with our hardware team, what's the best iPad and covers to get, etc. Then the entire onboarding and customer success team have been very supportive. They helped us an awful lot with our mass uploads. They were also fantastic when we were going live. They were very supportive, even in between our scheduled sessions. If we had any questions, they were very good at getting back to us quickly. Also, the quality of the training. It was very robust compared to a lot of other system rollouts I’ve been involved with - largely given that it’s a very user-friendly interface. So, that all helped us to go live more quickly.

How did you train your team on how to use Poka and how long did that take?

We trained everyone in a classroom session at the start of their shift and then we were there throughout the shift to check in on them. We did it over two weeks to hit all the shifts. It was a one-hour classroom training session. A lot of people had used an iPad in a factory setting before. I was still very surprised to see how easily they interfaced with the solution. We asked everyone to add content - a picture - to the factory feed. There were a few people who had set up profile pictures even before we got to that part in the training. We had a very diverse crowd from different ethnicities and age groups - yet everyone took it up very quickly. So one hour of training was enough and we said we were there to support them if they had any questions afterwards. But nobody ever said that the training was an issue, or that they don't know how to use Poka.

How are you handling change management and operationalizing your connected worker app?

When we first launched, there were less reasons for people to log into Poka unless they were doing a routine wash. Now what we're doing is at the end of every shift, the outgoing operator has to sign in and do a shift report and the incoming operator has to sign off that they’ve seen the shift report. So we're going to drive that habit. Also, it's gonna be a KPI for the supervisors to make sure that their shifts are closing out the forms and following up, “Hey, you're in a wash. Show me where you are in your Poka form.” Things like that.

One of the key resources in our group was our training coordinator and union employee. We brought him in at the beginning, as soon as we selected our first site and consulted and asked his opinion. He's a very well-respected peer and was pivotal in promoting Poka. He sees the benefit of Poka since it will take an awful lot of work off of his hands once we get all the skills in Poka set up. Then, we are continuously reviewing the wash forms and providing feedback. If we see someone who hasn't logged on frequently, we go see them. We’ve already identified one shift that doesn't use it as much as the others. So we’re being a bit more surgical with that shift and pushing them to use it more and have a lot more governance around it.

And last, we’re going to have an incentive program. You looked at all your work instructions. You've done all your forms. You get what we call a boomer box. It’s basically a point system where if someone did well, they can go on to this website and buy something.

What KPIs are you using to measure the value and ROI of the solution?

The main KPI is tracking to see how long our washes are taking compared to before. We’ve also developed a dashboard to see how many people are logging in, how many people are completing forms, etc. We're going to try segregating that into the shifts and then make sure that the supervisor is following up with the shift lead or with people on their shifts to make sure that they're hitting their numbers.

What strategic support is Poka providing you with to ensure maximum usage and value?

We’re going to have weekly calls with our Poka customer success manager. He’s going to pull KPIs to show us how we’re measuring against the objectives that we’ve set in terms of activity and usage, and also comparing that against our own KPIs. Then we’ll continue to talk through our plans and brainstorm how to further embed Poka in our operations. We've had three of those sessions so far since launching. They went very well. It's good to see how we're doing from a numbers perspective to track our progress. It’s very useful to get that.

About Kerry


Pharma, Food and Beverage



Head Office:





150 Sites

Poka Customer Since:

October 2022

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