Tag Archives: coverage

5 Signs that you may need a new shift schedule

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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

Why should you consider changing your shift schedule?

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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.

Covering a 12-hour vacancy

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There is no doubt that shiftworkers prefer 12-hour shifts over 8-hour shifts. It’s not that they like being at work for an extra four hours. They like the additional 91 days off a year.

Therein lies the problem.

With so many days off, it seems that the crew you need to get in touch with for absentee coverage is always gone.

8-hour shifts offer the following two conveniences: First, you can always ask an 8-hour person to stay over. They are already at work so contacting them simply means walking out to their work station and tapping them on the shoulder. Secondly, they are at work on 75% of the days of the year. If you need to change their schedule on a specific day, the chances are good that you just go out onto the work floor and tell them. They are probably there.

12-hour shifts have neither of these advantages. You don’t want to ask a 12-hour person to stay over for 4, 8 or even 12 hours. Also, they only work 50% of the days in the year. So, if you want to go out on the floor to tell them their schedule is changed, there is a 50/50 chance that they are on a day off and not on the floor.

The single biggest reason, by far, that companies on 12-hour schedules contact us is because of problems with absentee coverage.

People are on their days off when you need them. Your supervisor makes one call after another until someone answers their phone and is willing to come in. This is a time consuming process that takes your most expensive asset and turns it into a telemarketer.

There is a solution.

Shiftwork Solutions and Shifthound have partnered together to develop software that greatly simplifies absentee coverage on 12-hour shifts. While it works with all types of shifts, 12-hour schedule tend to have the biggest problem and would thus have the biggest benefit.

The program takes advantage of the overwhelming prevalence of cell phones, text messages and the internet.

For example, if there is a last minute opening, a supervisor can send out an overtime request to an entire crew that is schedule off. Instead of making one call after another, everyone is notified in moments.

We know that about 20% of all shiftworkers will work all of the overtime they can get. If an entire crew is notified of an overtime opportunity, the positive responses should come in quickly. They can accept overtime via text messages, email or online through the Open Shift Management program.

For more information about this product, call our office at (415) 763-5005.