USG Drives High Engagement with Poka

Improve Factory Training Digital Work Instructions & Troubleshoots Issues Management Factory Feed

About Matthew

Mathew Boyer is an Operations Manager at USG, a manufacturer of building materials for the construction industry with over 7,500 employees, 46 manufacturing locations in North America, and 2,700 active pantents. Mathew is responsible for the overall production quality of its ceilings division at its Cloquet plant.

Matt Boyer
Matthew Boyer

Operations Manager at USG

What drove USG to begin using Poka’s connected worker app on the factory floor?


Like a lot of companies, we have a very senior, tenured workforce and we were seeing a lot of retirements. At the same time, we were making a lot of investments in new equipment and processes to bring into the plant. That forced us to look at our training and how we communicated. We had a lack of multimedia incorporated into our work instructions. It was largely a paper-based system and we really wanted to improve our training and access to information. We recognized that now is the time to redo things.

We went to live with Poka in Q1 of 2022. We started with around 150 users in our ceilings division and expanded that to a second plant, our gypsum division, for 295 users in total. But we see opportunities to push Poka into other areas of our business and more plants.

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How did you introduce Poka to workers and get them excited about the changes that were coming?


Initially we focused on our leadership group, in one area of our production line. We worked through getting that leadership group trained and getting them to start to understand how Poka can really affect our daily work and business. We used that core group as the best conduit to better explain it to our operators and move forward. We used more informal meetings and communications to start talking about this, to get people excited about the changes that we were making.

How did workers react to the news and how did you handle any initial objections or resistance?


There was a mixed reaction (among the management team) at first. They were like, “Wow, this is a lot of work. There’s a lot to do redo in our training. Is this really the right time to roll out yet another initiative, something else that's going to take up a lot of our time and effort?”

That allowed us to have a discussion that this isn’t just something else to do as a one-off project. It’s designed to make these tasks and other pieces easier for us on an ongoing basis. So, we were able to address their concerns and get them on board after that.

Then, after they saw some of the easy wins with just the communication piece and being able to post stuff, and have some of that collaboration happen, they quickly understood, “OK, this is different”. This is something that was really designed for operations and the shop floor, and not just another administrative tool. This is a good place to keep stuff and give you access to information quickly without having to introduce any more hurdles.

The main driver for using Poka was to facilitate training, but then you quickly expanded to other use cases. Tell us more.


Our initial use case was focused on training workers on new equipment and processes because it takes a lot of content and information to do that. And initially we wanted to start small and slowly roll Poka out to other areas of our operations, but our production line is quite long, and people are spread out over a large distance. So being able to post issues in Poka’s news feed, get comments back, and then collaborate, really pushed the usage.

Then, a lot of other areas of our operations and other workstations were clamoring to use it: “Hey, when can I get an iPad at my station and get access to this?” And then as we started using digital forms in Poka, people were able to see, “OK, this is really valuable. This is going to make our lives a lot easier.” And then people brought a lot of examples very quickly like, “This is a problem for me or this creates an issue. How can we address this in Poka?” So that’s how it expanded and allowed us to move this (rollout) quicker.

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How did you train workers on using Poka and were people able to quickly pick it up?


Training workers was pretty straightforward. Poka has a lot of good templates and training included as part of the onboarding process that walks you through all the features. Our initial training as we rolled this out to workers took about an hour or so to run people through it. That included creating a profile, getting logged on, and running through all the different features. It was a pretty easy rollout from that standpoint. People picked it up pretty quickly with very minimal instruction.

Initially there was some concern whether certain demographics were going to take to it or not. We did have some folks that said they had never used an iPad before, which we had to address. But almost everyone is used to one and took to it pretty quickly.

Some certainly needed a little bit more reminding than others. But there's no shortage of coworkers that can point someone in the right direction. It hasn't really been an issue.

What did you do to drive the habit of using Poka and not revert back to the old way of doing things?


Driving habit was just a matter of saying this is how we are doing business now. We kept reinforcing that Poka is the place to find things, and we did a lot of positive reinforcement. We looked at the metrics to see who's using Poka and who isn’t. And then we followed up with them to understand why: Did you forget your password? Did you get locked out? We can reset that. So, it was addressing some of those easy barriers. And then as we incorporated other elements, like lock out, tag outs, we rolled it out to our technicians and maintenance staff as well. So, that further drove the habit.

The other thing that really helped was, as people posted issues, we started to drive a lot of the communication back through Poka to respond. People saw that they could ask questions or bring up issues, bring in other groups like technicians and maintenance, and then find the response. People saw that they could get good results and answers; that was really powerful.

What was the largest obstacle you had to overcome in order to get buy-in and usage of Poka?


The biggest obstacle was changing how people thought about publishing and revising information. Because prior to Poka, it was a monumental effort to make changes and get the information back out to all the places on the floor. Poka eliminates a lot of that. It really changes how you construct training and work instructions. It’s a very easy platform to make changes and revisions in because it's instantly available as soon as you publish it, unlike paper-based systems. So I had to change people’s habit of saying, “The training and documents have to be 100% done”. I had to get them to realize that 80%, or 90% is good enough because we can just add to it - make revisions and updates - and roll it out to the floor very fast.

How has Poka helped change the culture within your organization and increased worker engagement?


Poka is really helping to push worker engagement. People want to do a good job. But they also want to be heard. They want feedback on those opinions, even if it can’t be done or done in the time frame they want. They want to know why and be taken seriously.

And Poka creates an environment that allows operators to build on one another's comments. As someone posts something, someone else can comment back very quickly between shifts. They can collaborate and refine an idea and ultimately get to a better solution more quickly. We're seeing that happening, which really drives engagement.

And as they see those solutions implemented, they’re like, “Wow, I really had a part in that”. The funny thing about Poka is there were probably four or five different people collaborating. A good solution was implemented and almost unanimously, all of those people felt like it was their solution. They all had that ownership and could say, “Hey, that was mine. I was involved in that.”

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What KPIs are you using to measure user adoption versus Poka’s impact on production?


What we’re trying to gauge at this point is how many people are logging in regularly, how many views is a post or work instruction or other information getting, and how many people are posting information and commenting. Those are some of the initial pieces we are looking at. We're also tracking how many people are using our start-up, shut-down and product checklists.

But a lot of it has also been focused on the positive interactions. So, is it giving more people a voice? And as more people understand that, they bring more stuff up and get responses. People feel like this is a good place, so I am going to keep pushing and keep logging on and keep accessing it.

Learn more about Poka and how you can replicate USG's success story