Relief Crews

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Shift reliefs allow a facility to operate through breaks and shift changes. They allow you to continue to produce even when employees are on vacation or off sick. Further, they represent a pool of additional hours that can be used to accommodate training and a variety of other discretionary activities.

In spite of all of these benefits, shift relief remains a source of avoidable costs and missed opportunities. Here, we will focus on how to make the best use of your shift relief personnel.

How to Use Your Relief Crew

To properly staff a relief crew, it is important to determine exactly how they will be used. There are a wide variety of uses for relief personnel.

  • A shiftbreaker can eliminate overtime in a 7-day schedule.
  • Most 7-day schedules have 4 crews that average 42 hours of work a week. By strategically scheduling the crews and the shiftbreaker, a single relief person (the shiftbreaker) per every 20 employees can be used to bring the average workweek down to 40 hours.
  • A multi-skilled shift relief individual can allow you to run through breaks.
  • This individual can relieve several (usually between five and six) people for breaks and lunches, one at a time. Care must be taken not to overstaff or understaff this position. Too few people and you will have to shut down a line anyway. Too many relief personnel and you will be overstaffed when break or lunch coverage is not required. It is important that work be identified for relief personnel to perform when they are not relieving others.

One of the advantages of using shift relief personnel in this way is that the system encourages the person being relieved to return from their break or lunch on time. Since the relief person can only cover one position at a time, breaks and lunches for personnel working side-by-side are often in series. For example, if I return late from my break, then the person I work next to every day gets a shorter break (the time must be made up somewhere). If a person is consistently late, their co-workers will usually apply peer pressure to correct the problem.

Covering breaks and lunches can increase equipment productivity in many operations by 10% or more. In operations that consistently run weekend overtime, our consultants have successfully used this strategy to boost weekday capacity and minimize weekend overtime.

How to Schedule Your Vacation and Absentee Relief Personnel

Some firms put all of their absentee relief personnel on day shift, Monday through Friday. The problem with this is that the actual vacancies that need to be covered are on the evening shift, graveyard shift or on a weekend. Unless the relief personnel are re-scheduled, needless overtime is generated to cover the vacancies.

Many companies schedule relief personnel right along with the crew they are responsible for supporting. This greatly reduces the overtime generated by covering an absence. However, it results in costly overstaffing when everyone shows up for work.

Additional information on using relief personnel to cover absences is discussed in “Managing Absenteeism.”  Keeping your operation running often means keeping the on-shift positions covered. Shiftwork Solutions can help you develop a relief strategy that optimizes your cost structure and management systems. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.