Tag Archives: scheduling

5 things H.R. needs to know about shiftwork

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Let’s start with this – My intent with this post is NOT to tell H.R. how to do their job. Rather, I want to round up many of the issues surrounding shiftwork in an effort to put the spotlight on those I have found to be most important to H.R. professionals.

So, let’s get to the list…

#1: No one is going to come to H.R. to tell you how much they like the schedule they are currently working.  When people are unhappy, they complain. When they are happy, they are quiet.  This means that people coming to your office to complain about the schedule will ALWAYS out number those that come by to tell you they love it.  Just be aware that listening to those that come to you is not a representative sampling of your workforce.

#2:  What the average shiftwork wants or what a nearby plant is doing has little bearing on what you should be doing with your schedule.  After nearly 30 years in the business, I can tell you exactly what the average shiftworker likes and doesn’t like; and yet…I have never met an average shiftworker.  Everyone is unique.  In the same way, your business is unique from the company down the street.  What works for one company is not necessarily what will work best for you; even if you are in the same industry.

#3: As a service organization, H.R. works for several different interests including: planning, production, maintenance, quality, administration and leadership.  All of these have different functions and thus often require different shiftwork structures and outcomes.  Serving several masters is no easy task.  All need to be heard.  All need to be tended to.  Remember, if H.R. was easy, no one would need you.

#4: Recruiting and retention of skilled employees is always affected by the shift schedule being used.  Supervision, absenteeism, vacancy coverage and overtime will also be impacted.

#5: Process is everything when it comes to changing a shift schedule.  How you communicate plans and ideas as well as how you solicit input from affected parties will determine the ultimate level of success you experience with your change.

Jim Dillingham, Partner

(415) 265-1621

Jim@shift-work.com

Yes, it’s personal

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I’m often asked “Jim, what is the single most important thing we, as an organization, can do to better facilitate a schedule change.”

My answer is always the same – “Find a way to see the event through the eyes of a shiftworker.”  In other words, walk that mile in their shoes.

Companies don’t change schedules for the fun of it.  They know it has the potential to disrupt everything from planning to maintenance to hiring and training.  It’s a big undertaking and not to be taken likely.

When companies make the decision to change, they always approach the workforce with the case for change.  This “case” nearly always boils down to “We are doing this because of the needs of the business.”

While this is a great reason for change, it does not do a lot to calm the workforce’s concerns.

Here is why…

To the company, a shift schedule tells people when to be at work.  To a shiftworker, a shift schedule tells them when they DON’T have to be at work.

In other words, it tells them when they can live the rest of their lives; that part of their life not at work but instead with their families or hobbies or whatever they may be passionate about.

Yes, they will understand “the needs of the business” but its also important to understand their perspective.

When you touch a schedule, even slightly, you are touching their personal lives.  Change a start time by 15 minutes and watch the fireworks as employees can no longer pick up their kids or attend school or catch the early bus home.

You may say “We are changing the schedule to meet the needs of the business” but they are hearing “We are going to change your family life to facilitate the needs of the business.”

There is a difference.

Recognizing this difference will change the way you approach the project.  The right approach will change the outcome for the better.

Jim Dillingham

Partner, Shiftwork Solutions LLC

Jim@shift-work.com

(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.

The Weekend Warrior Trap

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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.

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, 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.

 

Scheduling Supervision

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Let’s cut right to the chase on this one: Should supervisors be on the same schedule as the people that they supervise?

The answer is unequivocally – YES.

Supervisors have one of the most complicated tasks at any facility.  This comes from having to wear two hats at the same time.  They are managers and must support the goals and processes that come down from above.  They are also managers in change of the productivity, safety and well-being of those underneath them.

To do this, the supervisors need consistency.  The need to work for the same people so they are getting a consistent message from above.  They also need to have people working for them that they know.  They need to know who needs extra supervision and who can work well independently; who will perform better when verbally praised and who only works under the threat of sanction.  The more often a supervisor matches the workload of his or her crew, the more they know those that work under them.

Equally important is the view from below.  People need to know what is expected of them.  In large part, this expectation comes directly from their supervisor.  You don’t want an operator saying, “Well, Bob wants me to do it this way and Sue wants me to do it that way so I guess I’d better wait and see who shows up to be my boss today.”

There is also the need for accountability.  A supervisor cannot be expected to be accountable to a shift that he or she is only supervising part time.

There is broad acceptance of this idea, so why spend so much time on it?

There are a couple of reasons…

First, companies often find resistance from the workforce when they try to change schedules. This can be significant.  If you don’t think so, change your shift start times by 15 minutes and see what happens; then imagine what would happen if you went from a 5-day to a 7-day schedule.  To “soften” the blow, supervisor schedules may be changed first.  They go from a 3-crew, 8-hour schedule to a 4-crew, 7-day schedule.  This change immediately gives the supervisors 78 more days off per year than the 5-day schedule.  The idea is for the workforce to see all of the newly happy supervisors and think “Hey, I gotta get me some of that.”

The problem is, that this “demonstration” can go on for some time.  There is often no objective way to see how far the workforce has swung towards wanting a change.  Furthermore, if the desired effect is not achieved, you will run into supervisor complaints if you try to take their new and improved schedule away from them.  I don’t want to imply that this strategy cannot work. I just want to say, “be careful” when you do it.

Some companies will shy away from the trend of longer shifts for more days off.  They may want to go to a 7-day schedule but using 8-hour shifts instead of 12-hour shifts.  Mathematically, you have two choices here.  If you go to 8-hour shifts, and you want the supervisors to match the employee crews, then the schedule will have to rotate.  Or, and additionally due to math, you can have fixed shifts but the supervisor schedule will not match the crew schedule.  (Give me a call if you want more details on this one).

I have done nothing but work with companies to help them evaluate, design and implement shift schedules for the last 25 years.  It has been my experience that the supervisor component is one of the most important and most overlooked contributors to the success or failure of such a change.

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.