Microsoft has recently launched an updated app that greatly enhances a manufacturers usability of the product, Teams. This is the latest attempt by Microsoft to push its collaboration offering for assembly-line workers.

The new update, titled ‘Updates in Microsoft Teams’, has become available this week as part of a new slate of Teams features aimed at increasing usability by manufacturers. The company also extended the Teams’ walkie-talkie capability to more mobile devices, tied Teams to scheduling software and expanded the Approvals in Microsoft Teams tool as well. All of these features help increase the ‘quality of life’ for manufacturers.

The Updates app allows companies to create forms in Teams for everyday tasks such as: employee check-ins and maintenance requests. The app includes templates for common types of forms, though Managers can also custom create these forms them from scratch. Managers can choose whether certain items are optional or mandatory; if questions are multiple choice or open-ended; and if they require a worker to add a file, picture or video to complete the form.

Companies can also integrate Teams’ Approvals tool with their own apps. The new update lets employees submit and managers approve proposals and expense reports within Teams. With the integration, companies can add that functionality to software created in Microsoft’s Power Apps.

Teams is also connected to scheduling product Workforce Management from software firm Blue Yonder. The integration uses Teams’ built-in tool, Shifts, to allow workers to view their schedules and request time off from within the collaboration app.

Teams’ walkie-talkie feature lets workers push a button to talk with coworkers. Microsoft has recently expanded this functionality to now include Crosscall devices.

The ability to share updates, request approvals and manage scheduling will make Teams a better tool for manufacturing workers. These new capabilities reflect an evolution of collaboration products from messaging tools to a hub for work.

Microsoft has opened Teams’ walkie-talkie feature to rugged devices from Crosscall, a manufacturer based in France. With the functionality, employees press a dedicated button to talk to their coworkers in Teams over Wi-Fi or mobile internet. Microsoft released the feature on Crosscall’s Core-X4, Core-M5, Action-X5 and Core-X5 smartphones and the Core T5 tablet.

Earlier this year, Microsoft brought Teams walkie-talkie capabilities to Zebra Technologies mobile devices, as well as iPhones and iPads. The feature works on devices from Samsung, Sonim Technologies and Kyocera, too.

Teams could be helpful in manufacturing by accelerating training time and connecting employees to experts for support, said Raul Castanon, a 451 Research analyst. Teams could complement Microsoft’s augmented reality and AI technology in appealing to manufacturers. According to 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise survey on IoT tech, 86% of manufacturers said collaboration tools had either a high or medium impact on operational efficiency.

Several vendors have built collaboration products focused on manufacturing and other frontline workers. Workforce management platforms Beekeeper and Webalo, for example, have scheduling and digital form creation features akin to the new Microsoft capabilities.

Teams’ Updates app, Approvals tool, scheduling capabilities and walkie-talkie feature are included in Microsoft’s 365 F1, Office 365 F3 and 365 F3 subscriptions for frontline workers. The plans have monthly per-user costs of $2.25, $4 and $8, respectively.

If you are interested in hearing more about Microsoft Teams and how Microsoft’s hottest product can help your company please feel free to register for VOX ISM’s Free Teams Bootcamp running from June 14-16th.

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