Tag Archives: call centers overtime under over staffing scheduling

5 Signs that you may need a new shift schedule


Shift schedules rarely fail overnight.  Typically, there are plenty of warning signs; signs that tell you to take action before it’s too late.  Here are the 5 biggest warning signs.

#1: You have idle equipment while still not producing enough to meet customer demands.  There can be a lot of reasons for this; nearly all of which point to a schedule that does not have the right people in the right place at the right time.  Product flow, staffing, maintenance and production order variability can all be addressed with the right shiftwork structure.

#2: Maintenance is blaming equipment availability for a downward trend in equipment up-time.  You can’t fix something while it’s running.  The result is often and solution like “We’ll wait until the weekend to fix it.”  This is fine until you find that leaving too much to the weekend ends up with an overly fatigued maintenance group with not enough hours on the weekend to fix everything.  Scheduling equipment, like scheduling people, can improve maintenance accomplishment while still getting the production hours you need.

#3: Absenteeism is going up as overtime starts to wear down your workforce.  As overtime goes up, two things will happen.  First of all, your workforce will start to get tired.  Secondly, they will notice that they are now making a lot of money and can afford to take time off.  This is a “death spiral”  situation in that it is self-perpetuating and will only get worse.  Staffing will impact overtime but to do so effectively, you must have a shiftwork structure to support the newly resized workforce.

#4: Local competition for labor is causing problems with recruitment and retention.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like “Amazon just opened a mega-facility down the street and is hiring all of our employees away from us.”  The right schedule, one that is a good fit for your workforce as well as your business can help with this.  If wages are a concern, look for ways to get overtime to that 20% of your workforce that wants all they can get.  Overtime costs your company about the same as fully loaded straight time.  This means when you pay overtime, your employees make 50% more but your cost per hour is virtually unaffected.  Don’t lose your workforce because of wage pressures or quality of life issues.  The right shiftwork structure can help.

#5: Productivity metrics are dropping as equipment runtime-hours are on the rise.  If you are running more an more hours with the same old schedule, then you are probably seeing an increase in overtime.  While overtime is not a bad idea in many instances, it can eventually lead to worker fatigue.  This is especially true if you spread it evenly across all shifts.  Remember, not all employees want the same amount of overtime.  As fatigue goes up, so will accidents, quality issues and absenteeism.  You make find, for example, that running 6 days a week yields more output than running 5 days.  However, if you didn’t change schedules, a 20% increase in runtime will yield significantly less than a 20% increase in output.

In summary, don’t underestimate the impact of having the right shiftwork structure.  Fixing this issue is often the most expeditious and cost effective way of improving your overall operations.

For more information, call me, Jim Dillingham, at (415) 265-1621 or drop me a line at Jim@shift-work.com

Call Center Scheduling


There is a big difference between creating a shift schedule for a manufacturing plant and a call center.

More often than not, manufacturing tends to have steady workloads throughout a shift. While there may be some day to day variations, or even seasonality, these are relatively minor compared to what goes on at a call center.

Like all scheduling projects, we need to consider the needs of the workforce as well as the needs of the company.

For call centers, the needs of the company can be complicated. We look for answers to the following types of questions: When do the calls come in? How long do they last? Is it better to staff lean and miss a call or two or is it better to over staff and answer every call on the first ring? Answers to questions like these will create a mathematical model for schedule design.

To fit such a model, we often find that covering 24/7 with a simple 4-crew schedule does not offer a very good fit. Instead, we tend to find that several schedules, sometimes one per person puts the right number of people in the right place at the right time. We frequently resort to a variety of shift lengths that create gaps and overlaps at the appropriate times.

Just trying to do this for a single day can be very complicated. Doing it for an entire week while ensuring the workforce is not over/under utilized can take time, but the payoff will be significant.

If you pay an employee $20 an hour, over staffing will cost you about $70,000 per year per extra person. At the same time, under staffing will result in either high overtime or poor customer service.

The right schedule can make sure that you are staffed as optimally as possible.