Tag Archives: schedules

Don’t tell me what to do!

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After 26 years of working with hourly employees all the way up to senior corporate executives, one thing strikes me as a universal truth – We don’t like to be told what to do.

Shift workers are no different.

Knowing this, at Shiftwork Solutions, we have developed a process of communication and participation to help us through our change process.

Companies typically come to us with a shiftwork issue such as “I need to start running my 5-day operation 24/7.”  They expect us to do some math, which we do.  They expect us to work out the policies and staffing numbers, which we do.  They expect us to examine product flow and create a solution that fits their entire situation, which we do.

But most of all, they expect us to bring the workforce along on the ride.

We accomplish this using the following basic steps:

  1. We make sure the reason for change is real and understandable.  This is then communicated to the workforce.  Instead of saying, “We are changing,” we say “We need to change and this is why.”
  2. We tell the workforce what their level of involvement will be.  While some decisions are the job of upper management, many issues can, and should, be resolved using input from those most affected.  For example, the workforce can’t say, “Turn down that customer order because I want the day off.”  However, they can say, “I like this amount of overtime and I like my shifts to start at this time and I like longer shifts to give me more days off.”  All of these preferences can be managed in such a way as to have no impact on cost structures or productivity.  In short, if you can find areas to let the employees have their say, then do it.
  3. We educate the workforce.  This comes down to eliminating the fear of the unknown.  People that are unclear on what is happening tend to resist change.  They can become angry over a situation that only exists in their mind; where they filled in the blanks because no one else would.  They need to know what is possible and not possible.  For example, employees prefer you to hire additional crews to work weekends.  If you just say no, then the argument still exists.  If you say, “No and this is why,” the argument, and thus resistance fades away.

These three steps are very broad-strokes being used to briefly explain a complicated process.  The basic point is this: If you want to maximize the result of any change, then use a process that results in the workforce supporting that change.

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

Changing Schedules 101

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Every now and then, I like to return to the basics.  Today I’m going to cover some of the basic DOs and DON’Ts for those of you considering a change to your schedule.

DO make sure you have clearly identified your need.  Changing schedules can be a traumatic experience for your workforce.  You don’t want to put them through it over and over again and you seek the perfect schedule coverage through a series of Trial and Errors.

DON’T think that there is a schedule where 100% of your workforce will be happy.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, shift workers judge a schedule by the time off it provides. Since everyone goes to different lifestyles when they leave work, it is not surprising that they will have different opinions about what schedule best serves their needs.  Secondly, about 5% of every workforce comes to work to be contrary.  They will oppose any change.  In fact, if you try to appease them by not changing anything – they will oppose that.

DO keep the workforce informed.  As with any change, rumors are the enemy.  There has never been an instance where two shift workers are talking and one says, “I wonder what’s going on with our schedule” and the other one replies, “I have no idea but I’m sure we will like whatever it is that they come up with.”  If what you are planning to do is they right thing, then you should make whatever effort it takes to share your thoughts and actions with those that will be impacted.

DON’T assume that a small change is easy to make.  If you don’t believe this, tell the workforce that you intend to change the shift start times by 15 minutes; then stand back and watch what happens.

DO get the workforce involved.  No one likes to be told what to do.  If you need to change schedules, there must be a reason for this.  Tell the workforce and then solicit their input in creating a solution.  There are always numerous solutions to a scheduling issue; many of which will work equally well.  Since this is the case, why not use the schedule that best meets the needs of your employees.  They know better than you when it comes to knowing what they want.

DON’T assume your current pay and work policies for your current schedule will work equally well for your new schedule.  Things like vacation, holiday pay and shift differential must be addressed to make sure they are not costing you or the workforce more on the new schedule. When companies contact Shiftwork Solutions because their 24/7 schedule does not work, the problem is rarely with the pattern and nearly always has something to do with policies.

DO your math.  It’s one thing to think you know what you need, its another to be able to demonstrate it on paper.  If you can’t justify your schedule change using math, then maybe you are making a change based more on assumptions rather than reality.  I personally don’t like to guess.  I like to measure twice and cut once.

DON’T take short cuts.  Being “penny wise” will result in mistakes and missed opportunities that you will not quickly recover from.

DO be thorough.  Involve everyone in your change process; even those that will not be impacted.  Telling a group “We are changing schedules over in that area and you will not be affected,” is much better than leaving an unaffected group out of the loop and allowing them to make up their own reality.

If you have any questions or comments, contact me at Jim@shift-work.com or you can call me, Jim Dillingham at (415) 265-1621.  I never charge for advice given over the phone.

6-day schedules (part 4)

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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.

Scheduling Your Maintenance Crew on a 24/7 Operation

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Before a company goes to 24/7 operations, they typically reserve the weekend for much of their maintenance work – run the equipment on the weekdays then shut down and fix everything on the weekends.

When a plant shifts to 24/7 operations, the first thought of maintenance people is “Where do we go now?”  The weekend, their one time to do maintenance, is being taken up by production.   Is this the end of preventative maintenance?  Will maintenance now be restricted to small windows of opportunity such as line changeovers?  And the biggest question is “How will we schedule maintenance people when we no longer know when we will have access to equipment?”

The answers to these questions are much simpler than most people anticipate.

To get to these answers we first need to break down maintenance into its three main components: (1) Corrective Maintenance, (2) Preventative Maintenance and (3) Project work.  I will cover all three of these, and then use an example at the end.

Corrective Maintenance

On a 24/7 operation, everything is running all of the time.  While there are plenty of exceptions to this (change-overs, sanitation etc.) we’ll consider production to be spread uniformly across all hours for this discussion.

Since corrective maintenance is not “scheduled”, it can be nearly impossible to predict with any accuracy.  Therefore, we should consider an “event” requiring corrective maintenance to be random.  That is to say, it is equally likely to occur at any time during the week.  Under this type of condition, it is best to spread your resources around equally.  From a corrective maintenance perspective, it makes no sense to staff differently on Saturday afternoons than on Wednesday nights.

When it comes to staffing levels, you will have to take into account things such as: (1) the likelihood of something breaking down, (2) the opportunity cost of delaying a repair (3) the cost of overstaffing when those people could be used more effectively elsewhere and (4) the availability of additional resources through callouts.  The mistake most people make is to overstaff the corrective maintenance crews.  They need to realize that they will never have enough people to always ensure there are enough people to handle every possible contingency.  It is better to have an effective plan for augmenting your crew in an emergency.

Preventative Maintenance

This is actually easier to do on a 24/7 schedule that on a 5-day schedule.  On a 5-day schedule, you are essentially committed to “pit stop” maintenance.  You only have a very little window to fix everything so you throw all of your resources at it during that time.  Hopefully, you get enough things fixed so the plant can run well the next week.

On a 24/7 schedule, you still have maintenance to do, but you no longer have to do it all on the weekend.  Now you can spread it out during the week.  As a maintenance person, you’d rather do preventative maintenance during the day shift on weekdays.  Not only is this the preferred schedule for your people, it is also when you have the most resources available.  On Monday through Friday day shifts, you will have greater access to vendors, parts suppliers and engineers.

This all points towards scheduling as much preventative maintenance as possible during Monday through Friday day shift.  Of course, there should always be preventative maintenance assigned to other shifts throughout the week so maintenance people will be productive if there is no corrective maintenance needing their attention.

Project Work

Project Work is like preventative maintenance in that it is best done during the weekdays when the most outside resources are available.  Unlike preventative maintenance, project work often requires several consecutive days or weeks of work to be accomplished.  It is best started, maintained and completed by the same people to minimize any loss of information during turnovers between crews.  To do this, you will want to use 8-hour workdays where the project people come to work and advance the project every day, five days a week.

Sample

rsz_slide1

You will notice that the top schedule uses 18 people.  It is most heavily staffed on the day shift.  The three people on the night shift is a “signal” as to what the minimum acceptable staffing should be at any time.

Most companies that go to a 24/7 schedule will take the top maintenance schedule and just throw it away.  They think that going from a 3-crew schedule to a 4-crew schedule means that everyone will go to the new schedule and that they need to add 33% more people. In this instance, that would mean a total staffing of 24 maintenance people (6 up from the original 18).

The reality is that maintenance is about to become more, not less efficient.  Because of this, an increase of 33% does not make sense.  (Note: most maintenance crews feel they are understaffed. While they may be right, my point here is that the schedule itself should not require an additional 33% staffing)

In the second schedule, I use 3 people as the minimum needed for corrective maintenance.  I create a 4-crew 12-hour schedule and put 3 people on each of these crews.  I then add 1 additional person and put a total to 7 people on the Monday through Friday schedule. These will be my preventative maintenance and project people.  Where did I get the number of “1” for how many extra people I need?  The original schedule shows that they are using 10 people on the day shift Monday through Friday.  By putting 7 people on the Monday through Friday and adding the three that will also be there because of the 24/7 schedule, I end up with the 10 people I need.

Now, there will be overtime.  Things will break down and people will have to be called it when it gets too bad.  However, that is the nature of the beast if you have chosen a career in maintenance.  The good news is that most weekends will now be freed up and most maintenance will take place where the most resources are available.

If you’d like to speak to one of our experts about your maintenance schedule, give us a call at (415) 763-5005.

 

Staffing and Scheduling – The Compressed Work Week

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This posting is the first in a series of posts that will examine the relationship between the schedule your employees are working and the number of people it takes to staff your operation.  Today, I will focus only on a scheduling practice commonly referred to as a Compressed Work Week.

A Compressed Work Week (CWW) schedule is one in which people work more hours on the days that they work so they can have more days off.

I’m going to look at this several different ways because the impact of a CWW changes, depending on your situation.

Scenario #1: I have one employee and he trims trees for 8 hours a day, five days a week.

In this case, we can be almost indifferent about our employee’s schedule.  He probably shouldn’t work at night but, so long as he spends 40 hours a week trimming trees, we don’t care if he does it in 10-hour or 8-hour chunks.  We do care about 12-hour chunks because in order to average 40 hours a week, he would have to work ten 12-hour shifts in a 3-week period. This means that at least one of those weeks will have 4 days of work in it.  This means 48 hours of work in a single week which will increase costs when you pay overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a week.  Note: No extra staffing is needed in this case.

Scenario #2: I have one employee and he is a receptionist for my office which is open for 8-hours a day, five days a week.

In this case, a CWW will actually hurt you.  If you only need a person for 8 hours in a day and they are there for 10 hours, you are paying for 2 hours that you don’t need.  Furthermore, this person is now only working 4 days a week while your office is open for 5 days.  This means you will have to use overtime for the fifth day or hire a part-time employee or do without a receptionist for 1 day a week.

Scenario #3: I have five employees working 8 hours a day for five days a week.  My business only needs four employees at a time and I need them for 10 hours a day.

No problem here.  Put everyone on 10-hour shifts.  They each work four days a week and they each get a different day off.  In this way, four show up every day for 10 hours and no overtime is incurred.  This example is made to work out perfectly.  However, imagine that you have 7 people and need only five to show up – the number just won’t work out.  Basically, if you are 20% overstaffed on a daily basis and your daily coverage is 20% less than it needs to be, you can change your schedule from 8’s to 10’s without a cost.  Anything else will be problematic.

A few notes about compressed work week schedules…

  • As you can see by the three examples above, your conditions will determine if this is a good idea or not.
  • Even though they might not realize it, your employees will love a CWW schedule after they have been on it for a few weeks.  The might not like the longer days but they will love the extra days off.  There are two things that result from this: (1) Retention will go up as schedule satisfaction goes up and (2) Retention will go down if you take away their new schedule which they have come to love – so be sure it will work for you before you implement it.
  • Although it may seem counter-intuitive, your employees will average more sleep on a CWW schedule than on one with 8-hour shifts.  The reason for this is that people sleep slightly less on days they are working longer shifts AND they are sleeping significantly more on days that they don’t have to work.
  • In the United States, we see CWW schedules implemented most often in operations that run 24/7. There are two reasons for this.  The first is that people love the extra days off. The second is that an 8-hour schedule that covers 24/7 must rotate (Trust me on this one.  Give me a call if you want more details as to why.)

 

 

Staffing, overtime and your schedule

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One of the most common and misunderstood issues surrounding schedules is the relationship between staffing, overtime and the schedule itself.

The reality is that a schedule has no impact on the quantity of overtime your site is experiencing.

Overtime is a function of (1) How much work is there to do and (2) How many people do you have to do that work.

Your schedule only tells you “when” the overtime will occur.

If you take a look at all the hours it takes to get a job done, and then look at how many people you have to do the work, you will know how many hours per person will be needed.

If you have 4,200 hours of work to be done next week and 100 employees to do it, then everyone will average 42 hours of work for an overtime rate of 5%.  Notice that the schedule played no role in determining this figure.

So where does a schedule come into play?

In most cases, a schedule will tell you “when” the overtime will occur.

For example, if your schedule has short shifts (i.e. 8 hours or less), the overtime is typically worked before or after a regular shift.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the shift is short enough that you can add hours to it without adversely impacting safety or productivity.  Secondly, the shorter the shift, the more days of work your schedule will have.  This means you have fewer days off.  The fewer days you have off, the more you want to protect them.  Therefore, if you have to work overtime, you’d rather do it on a day when you are already at work rather than giving up one of your preciously few days off.

If you have longer shifts (i.e. 10-hour or 12-hour shifts) then overtime is much more likely to occur on a regularly scheduled day off.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the longer the shift, the fewer hours you can add before the shift become too long and begin to adversely impact alertness, safety and productivity.  Secondly, longer shifts have many more days off.  More days off has the impact of lessening the value of a day off, (In much the same way that diamonds would be less valuable if they were laying around everywhere.)  This means that it is less painful to give up a day off, when you have a lot of them.

There is one condition where the schedule can play a role in the “quantity” of overtime – When you have the wrong schedule to begin with.

The wrong schedule can cause you to take the “perfect” number of people and put them in less than perfect locations.  For example, if you have the right number of people but your schedule causes you to be overstaffed during some time periods; you will then be under staffed during other time periods. This will cause overtime.  More importantly, they will cause Idle Time when you are overstaffed along with the Overtime for when you are understaffed.  Both of these conditions create high avoidable costs that can be eliminated with the right schedule.

 

Getting the Workforce Involved

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I recently received a telephone call from a company that was having problems with their shift schedule.  The problem, it seemed, was that people were complaining about the schedule.  The company could hear the complaints but was having a hard time interpreting what they were hearing.  Was it just a few “squeaky wheels” doing all of the complaining or was their a general rumbling throughout?  Was there a specific problem or were there several issues?

The obvious concern the company had was that they needed to qualify and quantify the problem before they could take action to fix it.

This is where we came in.  Our two-survey process accomplishes the following:

The entire workforce is involved.

One person, one survey eliminates the “squeaky wheel” issue.

The first survey finds the problem, the second survey narrows down the possible solutions

The surveys made sure everyone knows what is going on.

The results from the surveys are shared with the workforce making the process “transparent” and the results data-driven.

If you are planning a change to your shift schedule, regardless of how small and apparently inconsequential, get the workforce involved.  It is their schedule.  They have structured their lifestyles around it.  Any change will have an impact on them and their families.  Getting them involved helps them to understand what is happening, why it is happening and when it is happening.  It also lets them have some input into the final solution.