Help is on the way.

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There is no such thing as a perfectly staffed shiftwork operation. Sure, there will be days when the number of people that show up is exactly the number of people that you need. It happens, but not often enough.

What does a typical day or week really look like?

The workload varies. This could be due to product mix, changeovers, maintenance or just seasonality.

The workforce varies. Vacation preferences tend to bunch up around holidays and summer. Sickness, STD, LTD and FMLA all add to the uncertain nature of daily staffing; not to mention the occasional flat tire.

If you throw skill sets into the mix, then you end up with a very complicated scenario. Sure, you only let 10% go on vacation at a time, but you better make sure that the 10% that are off do not represent 100% of a skill set you need to operate.

When the workforce does not perfectly match the workload in both numbers and skills, action must be taken.

If you are overstaffed, you may need to send people home. This usually entails a supervisor walking the floor and asking people if they want to go home. Failing that, you could force people home (not a recommended option) or you could find “work” to keep them busy.

Over staffing is a very expensive proposition, one that is hard to correct once it has occurred.

What about under staffing?

Absenteeism and changes in production conspire to make sure you don’t have the right people in place (numbers and skills) without action being taken.

That action usually means tapping people on the shoulder and saying, “Remember when you thought you were going home at the end of the shift?” or placing call after call, hoping that someone will answer their telephone.

Absentee coverage has become even more problematic with 12-hour shifts. With extended hours, all overtime is covered by people at home being called in on their days off.

There are ways to make this a little easier. Daily and weekly lists are posted, telling people what days off they will be giving up. Volunteer lists enable people to sign up for vacancies that may or may not exist. The idea being to give overtime to those that want it or assign it to those that don’t.

There are several major problems with all of this.

1. It takes a lot of time every day to manage under staffing and over staffing issues.

2. There is no real-time way of determining what the staffing needs are. Often, a best guess is used.

3. There is no real-time way for the workforce to indicate if they are available or even prefer overtime.

4. There is no real-time method for matching staffing needs with employee desires.

5. The coverage policies, whatever they are, are imposed on a workforce resulting in blame, resistance and a feeling up unfairness.

Help is on the way. Soon, we will show you how to make all of these problems go away. Everything will be done in real time. Supervisors will have hours of time freed up every week. Employees will actively participate. Costs will drop as you match the workforce to your exact needs for that shift.

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