Category Archives: shift work

How to engage our services

There is a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Blink, the Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

In a nutshell, he talks about how too much information is not always a good thing.  We often make better choices with less information rather than more.

I sometimes worry that our site offers too much.  We really want visitors to our site to be able to find answers to their questions.  We want them to know how we can help and we want them to contact us if they have questions.  To this end, we have packed this site with as much information about ourselves and shiftwork in general as we possibly can.

And still, when people call us the first question is nearly always, “What is it you guys do?”

This tells me that we have “too much” stuff to sort through to get to that bottom line issue.  In this blog, I’m going to talk about how to find the answer to that question.

If you call me needing help, and I don’t have to pick up a pencil, I will help you for as long as I have the time to spend, without any fee.  So, call with your questions and don’t worry about being on the clock.

Our core business is helping companies to change schedules.  Companies range in size from a couple of dozen shift workers at a single site to thousands of shift workers at sites around the world.

Most often, companies need to expand from a 3-crew, 5-day operation to a 4-crew 24/7 operation.  I would estimate that this makes up about 70% our our business.

We work with every type of industry including nuclear power, call centers, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, refining, packaging, distribution, semi-conductor, shipping and many, many more.

About 80% of our work is in the United States.

A typical engagement process begins with an initial call from the client to us.  On this call, we discuss our process, usually very briefly.

If the potential client is interested in learning more, we offer an on-site visit.  This is typically a 2-hour meeting with the local management team.  During this visit, we discuss our process in detail while addressing their current situation.  We do not charge a fee for this but the people that invite us out typically pay for travel expenses.

Once this initial meeting is over, we know a lot about the client’s needs and they know a lot about our services.  At this point, the client typically likes to have a few days to discuss what they have learned.  If they decide they want a proposal, we send them one and work typically begins within a few weeks.

I use the word “typically” a lot since there is quite a bit of variance.  Some companies that have several sites just call us up and say “We have another site.  When can you start?”

I will use a few more posts to discuss our services in a “broad stroke” type of view.  However, if you can’t wait for those posts, the information is in our site, amongst all of the other stuff you might be looking for.

And remember, you can always call and ask “What is it you guys do?”

Jim Dillingham

Jim@shift-work.com

(415) 265-1621

6-day schedules (part 4)

This is the fourth and final post in a series of four posts regarding 6-day schedules.  Here are the links to 6-day schedules (part 1), 6-day  schedules (part 2) and 6-day schedules (part 3).

In this post, we will look at two extremes when it comes to covering 6 days.  One uses extra staffing to cover 6 days with 40-hour workweeks.  The other uses traditional staffing for a 48-hour workweek but has a few 12-hour shifts to give an occasional weekend off.

First, lets consider a schedule that covers 6 days with 40-hour work weeks.  This is more complicated than you might think.  Why?  Well, there are 144 hours in a 6-day period.  If a crew is worth 40 hours, then you would need 3.6 crews to provide coverage (144/40=3.6).

This is accomplished by having each of your three 8-hour crews being 20% larger than the number of people you expect to show up each day.  In this way, one out of every 6 people can be off on any given day (except Sunday when everyone is off).

Here is what the schedule looks like:

6 day 40 hourYou will notice that to have 5 people show up on any given day, you need to have 6 people assigned with one of those 6 being off on that day.

First, the good news about this schedule.  Everyone gets Sunday off plus one other day that week.  This should increase alertness (compared to the alternative of only getting Sunday off and no others during the week).  That’s about it as far as the good news goes.

There are several problems:

  • Supervisors cannot match their crews unless they work all 6 days.  If they also take a day off, then provisions must be made to cover for their open position.
  • People like two days off but generally prefer then to be two days off together.  Most shift workers will place a low value on having, for example, Tuesday off as their second day off that week.
  • The staffing requirement must be a multiple of 5.  This schedule works well if you need 15 or 375 people, but it will not work if you need 7 or 18 people.
  • Night shift alertness will suffer as night shift people lose some of their “night time adjustment” during their day off.
  • Cross training is required since every combination of 5 out of 6 must represent all of the skills needed to get the job done.
  • Twice every 6 weeks there are “split workdays”.  This is where they are off the day(s) before and the day(s) after a single day of work.  Shift workers will quickly recognize that these solitary days are good days to feel…maybe a little too sick to come into work.

Companies ofter go to this type of schedule in an attempt to avoid the “high cost” of overtime; failing to realize that overtime and straight time are generally “cost equal”.

Onward…

This next schedule is an attempt to keep things simple and yet, still give the employees a full weekend off once every three weeks.  “Keeping things simple” basically says, work everyone for 6 days in a row, all 8-hour shifts.  The workforce might not like this.  Alertness, safety and productivity will suffer; but its “simple.”

Now to get a full weekend off with the smallest departure from “simple” you must work 12-hour shifts on two out of every three weekends.  The third weekend is off.

Here is the schedule:

6 day 12 hour weekendsThis schedule is only popular among those that place a very high value on full weekends off.  Working 6 days in a row is hard enough.  This schedule not only calls for that, but it makes one of those 6 days, a 12-hour day.  The result is a full weekend off once every three weeks.

This is probably not a sustainable schedule for more work places.  However, in the short run, it may be just what you need.

That’s it for 6-days schedules.  I may return to this topic again sometime.  There is certainly a lot more to say about this subject.  If you have any questions, please give me a call.  My number is (415) 265-1621.  Ask for Jim Dillingham.

6-day schedules (part 3)

This is the third in a series about 6-day schedules.  I recommend you read 6-day schedules (part 1) and 6-day scheduled (part 2) before going forward with this one.

Today’s post will begin the focus on a 12-hour schedule pattern for covering 24 hours a day, six days a week.

The premise behind this schedule is that you still only want to use three crews to cover six days, but you would rather not hire more employees.  Because of this, everyone will still have to work 48 hours a week (changing schedules does not change total hours worked.  Only changing staffing or the workload does that).  This schedule allows people to get their weekly 48 hours in by only coming to work for four days a week.

Lets look at a quick comparison:

8-hour shifts: Work 6 days @ 8 hours and get one day off per week.  Total hours worked – 48

12-hour shifts: Work 4 days @ 12 hours and get three days off per week.  Total hours worked – 48

Picture2

This pattern can be worked as either a fixed schedule, a rotating schedule or and oscillating schedule.  The way it is shown here is as an oscillating schedule.  This is a schedule that has both “fixed” and “rotating” features.  In this example, the crews labeled “Days” and “Nights” are working fixed shifts.  That means they are always on Days or Nights.  The crew labeled “Day-Night” actually rotates between Day shift and Night shift (Nights on Mondays and Tuesday and then Days on Fridays and Saturdays).

There are several benefits to this schedule over a traditional 6-day, 8-hour pattern.

Employees will like it for a variety of reasons.  All will appreciate the extra days off.  The Day shift people will like having every weekend off as a 3-day weekend.  The Night shift people will like having 3 days off in a row, even though they are Sunday through Tuesday.  The rotating crew will typically be the junior-most crew.  As the junior employees, they could be looking at years before they have enough seniority to get to the Day shift.  In this schedule, they work Night shift for 2 days and then do not have to return to nights for another five days.

On the downside, the nature of the work must always be considered when looking at 12-hour shifts.  In nearly all cases, if someone can do something for 8 hours at a time for 6 days in a row with a single day of rest in between, then they can do that same thing for 12 hours at a time for 4 days a week with three days off per week to rest.

Most companies that go to 12-hour shifts will find that they need to rework some of their pay policies.  For example, if you only pay up to 8 hours a day when someone goes on jury duty, you may want to rethink that policy.

In 6-day schedules (part 4) I will return to the 8-hour idea.  We will look at a way to add people in a less-than-full-crew increment to reduce overtime.

If you have any questions, you can email me at Jim@shift-work.com or call me at (415) 265-1621.

10-hour shifts – Part Four

This post is the fourth and final post in a series about 10-hour shifts.  If you have not already seen the first three posts in this series, I recommend you do so before viewing this post.

This is a link to 10-hour shifts – Part One.

This is a link to 10-hour shifts – Part Two.

This is a link to 10-hour shifts – Part Three.

 

Click on the schedule (below) to see 10-hour shifts – Part Four.

Capture 10's

The Weekend Warrior Trap

Weekend Warrior refers to a type of staff scheduling strategy for covering 24/7.

At its most basic level, a Weekend Warrior schedule is one that uses two crews to cover all of the weekend work so the rest of the company’s employees don’t have to.  There are several variations to this.  Here are a few of the more basic models:

  1. Two weekend crews are used.  One crew works 12-hour days on Saturday and Sunday while the other crew works 12-hour nights on Saturday and Sunday. In this way, the Weekend Warrior crews work 24 hours a week and only work 2 days per week.  The regular weekday shifts are covered by three other crews: an 8-hour day crew, an 8-hour afternoon crew and and an 8-hour night crew.
  2. Two weekend crews are used.  One crew works 12-hour days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday while the other crew works 12-hour nights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In this way, the Weekend Warrior crews work 36 hours a week and only work 3 days per week.  Mondays through Thursdays are covered by two  other crews: a 12-hour day crew, and a 12-hour night crew.
  3. Two weekend crews are used.  One crew works 12-hour days on Saturday and Sunday while the other crew works 12-hour nights on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to the 12-hour weekend shifts, each crew will work 2 other shifts of 8 hours at some time during the week.  In this way, the Weekend Warrior crews will get a total of 40 hours a week.  The regular weekday shifts are covered by three other crews: an 8-hour days crew, an 8-hour afternoon crew and and an 8-hour night crew.  Note that the weekend crews will augment the regular weekdays crews when they come in for their additional shifts during the week.

While there are several variations to this concept, these three represent to lion’s share of what we have seen out there.

Now that I’ve clarified the type of schedule, let’s look at The Trap.

The bait, or the thing that makes this type of schedule so attractive is that it appears to satisfy everyone involved.  The company needs 24/7 coverage and this provides it.  The employees don’t want to work weekends so you hire someone else to do it.  This satisfies your existing workforce.   People want a job and will often take any shift to get a foot in the door.  This schedule allows people to get that foot in there, provided they are willing to work weekends – done deal.

Here is the problem.  The weekend crew will under-perform unless the company over-pays.  The Trap is that once this becomes apparent (usually within the first 18 months after implementation) it is too late.  Changing the schedule will seem like a take-away and the workforce will fight it tooth and nail.

Let’s look at the “problem” a little more closely.  Here are the things we typically hear:

  • The weekend crew has a high turnover as the employees leave for better hours.
  • The weekend crew has high absenteeism. This job is typically their back-up job.  When they go on vacation from their “main” job, they simply call in sick for their weekend job.
  • The weekend crew is out of touch with the rest of the plant.
  • The weekend crew people move to the weekday crews as soon as there is an opening thus making sure the weekend crew is staffed with the least skilled and newest employees.
  • The weekend crew typically performs at about 60% the rate expected of weekday employees.
  • When the weekend crew comes in for their 8-hour weekday shifts, the plant becomes overstaffed.
  • The weekend crew typically gets a full benefits package.  This means a 50% burden rate on the weekday employees equates to a 60-85% burden rate on the weekend crew’s hours.

Some companies, in an attempt to improve retention and performance on the weekend crews will up the ante.  For example, they may pay forty hours for 24 hours of work.  I have seen companies that do this end up paying about twice as much for each hour worked by a weekend crew as they do for a weekday crew.

It looks good so companies go to it.  It doesn’t work as planned and companies can’t get rid of it.  If that’s not a trap, I don’t know what is.

If you know of anyone that is thinking about implementing a Weekend Warrior Schedule, I recommend that you have them take a look at this posting first.

Making shift assignments

It’s human nature to not like change.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but I’m convinced that one of the “biggies” is fear of the unknown.  People “know” what’s going on now.  They “know” how things work.  Anything different is an unknown.

A schedule change is probably the biggest change your workforce will go through in a generation.  As you might expect, there will be some resistance.  About 5% of your workforce will resist simply because its in their nature to be negative.  The other 95% will have varying degrees of concern; almost all of which will be centered around not knowing, with complete clarity, what is going to happen.

What will the new pattern do to their lifestyle?  How much money will they make?  What opportunities, if any, will they lose when the change is made?  Will they still get all of their benefits?  What will happen to vacation?  Can they be on the same, or different, shift as their spouse?

This list goes on an on.  Your goal should be to create transparency.  The more open and informative your process is, the less stress will be put on your workforce.

The one statement that you don’t want to hear is – “That is not fair.”

This is not a statement that comes from change and not “knowing.”  This is a statement that often comes from complete understanding.  This is not a statement about “change”.  This is a value statement; one which must be closely investigated as soon as it comes up.

Why? Because whoever said it might have a point.

No other issue is more likely to bring up the idea of “fairness” than shift assignments.

If you go from a 3-crew, 5-day schedule to a 4-crew, 24/7 schedule, you will have to redistribute your workforce.  When this happens, people will first become concerned that they will not be assigned to the shift they want.  Once they know their shift assignment, their internal “jury” will take over.  This jury is not concerned with whether or not they got the shift they wanted.  This jury is only concerned about fairness.

For example, take two employees.  Both want to be assigned to the Day shift.  Employee #1 started last week.  Employee #2 started 30 years ago and is the most senior person at the plant.

If both of these are assigned to the Night shift, they will have very different reactions.  Neither wanted to go to nights, but employee #1 understands how being new means he won’t get his first choice.  Meanwhile, employee #2 is going to march straight to the H.R. office and say the dreaded, “This is not fair.”

Without getting into the multitude of ways to assign shifts, I am going to list a few guidelines that, if followed, will greatly reduce the instances of “not fair” resulting from your schedule change project.

  1. Do not realign the entire plant.  There will be those that say, “Every job is being changed so we should all be allowed to bid for every job in the facility regardless of whether or not we are trained for the job.”  This position needs to be confronted with the practical and economic reality of shutting down the facility to potentially retrain 100% of your workforce. It’s not going to happen.
  2. Minimize change.  If someone is on a particular shift, they have the first right to stay on that shift.  A person on an 8-hour day shift should have first shot at staying on day shift, even if that shift is going to 12-hours, regardless of seniority. This is easier than you may think since going to 12′s will generally result in twice as many day shift positions.
  3. A typical policy statement will include language like “We will use seniority among those that are currently in the department followed by seniority among those that are outside the department but already trained to do the work.”
  4. Use seniority whenever possible.  This is a very defensible position (as opposed to making assignments alphabetically or by height or shoe size.)    Seniority, while important, should not override all other considerations such as current skill set or shift assignment.  Typically, it is used as the tie-breaker.
  5. Do not allow bumping unless a job is eliminated.  Bumping means that I can take your job because I’m senior or more qualified.  In this instance, there is a clear winner and loser.  The loser will then go bump someone else who then bumps someone else.  Don’t do it.
  6. Once the dust has settled, you may find that one shift is particularly weak and needs a senior person from one of the more desirable shifts.  This may result in your taking a senior person and putting them on a shift that they normally wouldn’t be assigned to.  If this happens, take that person aside and explain that you need their help.  Also, tell them what you will be working on to rectify the situation (including how long they should expect to be on the undesirable shift).  You will be pleasantly surprised at how helpful people are willing to be if you don’t simply take their compliance for granted.

At Shiftwork Solutions LLC, we have the most experienced Shiftwork Experts in the world.  If you have any questions about this topic, or any other, please give us a call at (415) 763-5005.

 

 

 

 

Why should you consider changing your shift schedule?

Changing shift schedules is not like changing the curtains in your kitchen.

Its complicated.  It disrupts your workforce.  It takes a great deal of effort in an area that you likely have very little experience AND if you make a mistake, you must be prepared to live with it for a very long time.

So, if you don’t need to change your schedule don’t change it.

Having said all of that, there are many very compelling reasons to at least take a look at alternative ways of scheduling your workforce.

Here is a sampling of reasons that companies have given us in the past:

  • We are out of capacity during the weekdays
  • There is no room to expand out facility outside of our current building
  • Overtime is out of control
  • The workforce is tired and mistakes are on the rise
  • Safety
  • Costs need to be contained
  • Product flow is irregular causing shortages and stockpiles
  • Seasonality
  • High turnover
  • We need to reduce shutdown and start-up costs
  • Lean manufacturing initiative is not supported by the current schedule
  • Trouble distributing skill sets across all shifts
  • We are combining two plants into one
  • Lower costs
  • Supervisors don’t match the crew schedules
  • Vacation and absentee coverage is difficult
  • Current schedule does not support training
  • We need to get rid of a weekend warrior schedule
  • We are in a tight labor market and need a more attractive schedule

This list goes on and on.  Nearly every company has its own unique reason for wanting, at the very least, to look at alternative ways of scheduling their employees.

Every company that competes on the open market must be constantly striving to improve.  However, be careful.  Your workforce is likely to be very wary of any attempt to upgrade their schedule.  Interestingly, this is even true if they hate their current schedule.

About this blog

Welcome to my blog on Shiftwork Operations.

My name is Jim Dillingham and for the last 25 years, I’ve had a job that some have called a perpetual high school field trip. Why?  Well, my job consists of going to operations that work around the clock and evaluating their shiftwork structure.  I tell people that my job is to Evaluate, Design and Implement shift schedules.

That’s the short answer.

The reality is much more complex than that.  I have worked with around 200 different companies over the years and no two projects have been the same.  Everyone seems to have a unique reason for calling me in.  They all have equally unique solutions to their shiftwork issues.

If I had to boil my job down to one paragraph, it would look something like this:

Growing companies frequently find that they are outgrowing their facility.  When this happens, they can either increase capital spending (add onto their plant) or use their existing site more efficiently (typically running it 24/7).  Going to a 24/7 operation can be a bit overwhelming.  The entire product flow and cost structure of the operation will be affected.  The workforce, faced with working weekends may rebel.  The change, once made, will be something that the plant will have to live with for a very long time.  This is where I come in.  I’m the guy that “measures twice and cuts once.”  I make sure the change is done right, the first time. I do the math needed to give us answers with regards to schedule coverage staffing and product flow.  I get the workforce involved; making sure they understand the need for change.  They also participate in guiding the change so long as the needs of the business are met.  I write the pay and work policies needed to replace the soon-to-be outdated 5-day policies.

I do it all and when I am done, the company is on the best schedule possible.

My company is Shiftwork Solutions.  I run it with my business partner, Dan Capshaw (the new guy who has only been working with shiftworkers for 23 years).

The goal of this blog is for me to post article of interest for people that have an interest in improving their shiftwork operation.

As far as content goes, I have no shortage of material.  However, if you ever have anything specific you would like to learn about, you can always call our office or drop me a line.

My contact information is on the right sidebar; along with links to past posts, and a link to my main business site.

I look forward to helping you improve your shiftwork operation.