Monthly Archives: August 2016

Workforce Scheduling for Food Manufacturing

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Over the last 30 years, we at Shiftwork Solutions have worked with dozens of food manufacturing facilities.  One thing that always strikes us is how complicated their production requirement are.

While a typical manufacturing facility will say “Our overtime is too high” or “We need to increase capacity”, a food manufacturer will use these statements as only a beginning.

In this post, I’m going to cover some of the “Low Hanging Fruit”; those things that we go after when optimizing a food manufacturing plant.

Product Demand: Most food manufacturing facilities experience some degree of variability in their demand.  For example, soft drink demand drops off in the winter while potato chip demand goes up as the Super Bowl approaches.  The questions to answer are: (1) How big is the swing? (2) How predictable is the swing? (3) What are your labor options (Full Time v. Temps)? (4) What is the cost of training v. retaining?  Are you willing to lose skills during the slow time?  If not, what is the cost of keeping them around so they are there when you need them? (5) Can shelf life be used in such a way as to allow flatted production while the warehouse fills and empties? (6) If you have multiple plants, can you keep some higher performers at capacity and allow the poorer performers handle the variability?

Product Mix: If all lines make the same thing all the time, this is not an issue.  However, this is almost never the case. The questions to answer are: (1) Does line X always take the same amount of people to run when it is running?  If not, what is the variability? (2) Can multiple lines produce the same products or is each line the only line that can make certain products? (3) What is the cost of training your workforce to be able to operate multiple lines?

Sanitation: This is something 100% of food manufacturers must deal with.  A typical solution is “We shut down at night or on the weekend to clean”.  This isn’t a bad idea except for 3 things: (1) Every time you shut down, you must start up.  Start-ups are the least productive times for your lines.  (2) Every time you shut down, you must clean.  Cleaning = labor dollars.  Shut down fewer times you will clean fewer times.  (3) While you are cleaning, you are not producing.  Why shut down for 8 hours (and lose 8 hours of productivity) when you really only need 4 hours?  Scheduling sanitation to occur when you need it and only in the quantities you require will increase equipment availability and decrease labor costs.

Maintenance: When companies contact us, they are usually capacity constrained.  This means maintenance has been pushed to the very edge of the week – Saturdays and Sundays.  This can result in poor accomplishment rates as mechanics rush to fix everything in a very tight window.  Spreading operations across more days will allow maintenance to be spread out as well.  For example, if you go to a 24/7 production schedule, it does not matter when you take a line down, so take it down when you are able to do your best work.

Other areas that need to be considered are R&D, Quality, Supervision, Distribution and Planning.  Leave out any of these puzzle pieces and you will not get the complete result you are after.

You can contact me at:

Jim@shift-work.com

(415) 265-1621

 

Staffing? <-Good Question

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Considerations for answering – How Many Do I Hire?

I’m a shiftwork expert so my posts are always centered on shiftwork operations.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t something that a non-shiftwork operation might find helpful.  My hope is that every reader of every post is able to find value.

Most of my work, about 70%, is with companies that want to expand their operations while minimizing capital investment.  Basically, I help answer the question “How can I get more out of the equipment I already have?”

Once that’s been determined, my bread and butter is “process and implementation”.  I help them find where they want to go.  I valuate that destination and then I help them to get there.

One question is always “How many people do I have to add to get to where we want to go?”

There are short and long answers to this question.

If you are running three shifts, Monday – Friday and want to go to a 24/7 operation, you need to add 33% more operators.  You will also need to add another supervisor.

That was the short answer.

Here is the longer one…

This is really more of a list of considerations rather than The Long Answer.

First we have to land on an overtime number.  This is more than just creating an arbitrary goal of so many days or hours of work in a row.  Try answering the following questions for a start:

  • How much overtime do you want to have?
  • What does overtime cost (cost to company not income to earner) as opposed to fully loaded straight time?
  • What is the workforce’s appetite for overtime?
  • Is the process seasonal in that sometimes you need more people than other times? What is the level of operator specialization?
  • What is your turnover?
  • What is the lead time between needing a new hire to having a fully trained person?

The overtime issue is a big one since, with a fixed workload, overtime is a function of staffing.  More people = lower overtime.

If production is going to run more days, what does this imply for support operations?  Will quality, maintenance and sanitation requirements be expanded? Often the answers is something like this:

  • Quality will be affected slightly.  They will need more people but not 33% more.  Maybe something like 10% more.
  • Maintenance will actually become more efficient as you no longer have to be staffed at a level where you can fix everything on a weekend.  When running 24/7, maintenance is often spread out on the more productive weekday shifts.  This may actually lower your maintenance staffing.
  • Sanitation crews sometimes drop to zero staffing.  This is because 24/7 operations no longer sanitize in accordance with a fixed day or time of day schedule.  Instead, they run for as long as they can and then the operators simply become sanitors and clean up their own lines; starting back up as quickly as possible.

You don’t need 33% more Plant Managers, HR Managers or Engineers.  There is definitely a “cheaper by the dozen” affect when it comes to many of the higher level non-direct labor positions.

Clearly, if production goes to a 24/7 pattern, not everyone at the plant needs to do so as well.  In fact, there is a good chance, depending on your operation, that not all of production needs to go.  It’s not unusual for some lines to go to 24/7 while others remain on a 5-day schedule.  In some instances, running your high volume equipment more hours will actually take fewer people instead of more if you are able to retire some of you older, more labor intensive capital.

So there you have it….the longer answer.

The point here is that you need to do your homework.  Look at the fully loaded cost of a single employee.  Hire too many and things start to get expensive in a hurry.  My rule of thumb is to initially staff lean when in doubt.  If you are wrong, you can use overtime until you get the staffing right.  Coming in with too many people to start with will cause “income shock” to those that just lost all of their overtime AND you run the risk of overstaffing which is expensive and only fixable by painful layoffs.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at:

Jim@shift-work.com

(415) 265-1621