Do you know someone who's convinced that the Web is the answer to all ills, that it will replace telephones, magazines, newspapers, television and CNC programmers by the end of this summer? Do you also know someone that thinks the Internet is absolutely, positively the most useless waste of resources since the 8-track tape?
As for me, the answer to both questions is yes.
But just as surely as these two types of folks have me scratching my head, they also bring up today's great question for shop owners and managers, regardless of where they stand in the Internet debate:
Should I provide Web access to the shop floor?
On the one hand, some managers believe that teaching shop floor personnel how to use the Web responsibly is going to expose them to an enormous amount of useful technical and commercial content. They believe that it is their future and that getting a handle on it now will improve their plants' competitiveness and bottom line.
On the other hand, those with more conservative management styles are equally convinced that giving folks open access to the Internet on the shop floor is bad business. They argue it can erode the productivity of their shops, and that's that.
The answer is different for every shop, but it isn't the black or white issue that many make it out to be.
As effective managers, we are responsible for giving our teams the tools that they need to be as efficient and productive as possible. The Internet is what your plant will use to buy, sell and communicate in the future. But the road to that point is a long one. You must balance your shop's preparation for its future with this simple fact: Someone surfing to sports sites (or worse) isn't making chips.
There are tools out there that can help. For instance, by applying blocking software, you can prevent objectionable content from being accessed from your shop's computers, while allowing for more relevant, shop-sensible surfing. For some, proxy servers (which force all Internet connections through one computer, simplifying blocking and monitoring) may be the answer. Your Internet Service Provider and many software sites on the Web can provide you with other options.
I urge you to investigate ways to offer your shop floor the strength of this tool, without compromising your productivity or management style. Your shop and our industry will be stronger for it.