Staffing and Scheduling – The Compressed Work Week

 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 of the impact of a CWW change, 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 schedules.  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 workweek schedules…

  • As you can see from 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.  They 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.)

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Staffing, overtime and your schedule

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 understaffed 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.

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585.
 

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 someday 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/underutilized can take time, but the payoff will be significant.

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

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

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585

The FDA and Sanitation

Everyone in the food industry is rapidly becoming aware of the new sheriff in town.

The FDA has vastly more authority than it did only a few months ago and it’s having an impact on how companies are looking at their sanitation scheduling and standards. (see the Food Safety Modernization Act).

I have worked at a few of these companies recently and they compare the new inspection standards to those once reserved for those subject to the USDA.

In short – the bar has been raised.Companies have the following options: Get this right or get shut down.

One of the keys to success under this new environment is the scheduling of your sanitation periods and crews.Ă‚  There are two basic scenarios (with several smaller ones that will not be covered here).

Scenario #1: You have plenty of capacity and plan to continue sanitizing on the weekends.  This is a good idea and usually works when you have a dedicated sanitation crew that works full weekends.  In the world of shift scheduling, we call this crew a Weekend Warrior Crew.  There are two reasons this works.  First of all since most sanitation takes place on the weekends, you can have a crew that is sized appropriately to handle that additional work.  Secondly, while you may be able to run more than five days between sanitation periods, you probably don’t want to.  The reason for this is that this may cause sanitation to take place during the week which could then push production into the weekend (overtime!).

Scenario #2: You are out of capacity and are currently running 24/7.  When this occurs, you want to run as long as you can before stopping to sanitize.  This also means that sanitation could occur at any time and therefore, you must be staffed for that.  This can be handled in two different ways.  The first way would be to increase the number of sanitation specialists you have.  This will provide broader coverage but create significant idle time when no cleaning is taking place.  The second way is to train production crews to help sanitize.  This means more training as well as some discipline since most production people don’t like to change roles.

Finally, there is the methodology to get from whatever you are doing now to however you want to be doing things in the future.  You must have a clear idea of what you need.  How many production people do you need to stay over and how much time will it save/cost to use more/less?  What is the opportunity cost of downtime lost to sanitation?  How will you bring the workforce onboard? Remember, this could be a big change for them, and people don’t like change.

Please contact us if you’d like to discuss how we can help.  Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585.

Shift Schedules for the Food Manufacturing Industry – how to eliminate overcapacity

Shift work – The more you learn about it, the more you find out how much you didn’t know.

I have friends that know very little about what I do for a living.  When I say “I evaluate, design and implement shift schedules,” they will respond with “Aren’t all shift schedules basically the same?” I will respond with something neutral like “sometimes” and leave it at that.  They are laymen who are not involved in the business of running a business that needs to cover something other than Monday through Friday, day shift.

However, if you are in that business, the business using shift work, then you know what I’m saying when I tell you, “There is far more to shift work than schedules.” To this end, I have decided to write a series of blogs that talk about how shift work varies from one industry to the other.

I will start with the Food Manufacturing Industry.

The one thing that sets the Food Manufacturing Industry apart from all others is the need to sanitize.  Depending on the nature of their product and process, this can mean shutting down weekly or even daily for several hours to clean.

Most companies over-clean.  They do this because their shift schedule makes them do it. Over-cleaning creates overtime.  It increases costs and eats into valuable capacity (it’s not unusual for a food production line to cost well over $10 million.)

How does the schedule make them do this?

Following a typical growth pattern for most industries, they handled expansion through a combination of capital acquisition and the addition of afternoon and night shifts.  They plan for 5-day operations and base their capacity on that.

Now, let’s take 3 typical sanitation requirements and see how a schedule affects them.

  1. You must clean when you shut down.  This requirement has nothing to do with periodicity.  So, if you shut down every day, then you must clean every day.  If you shut down once a week, then you must clean once a week.  If you never shut down, then you must never clean due to this requirement alone.
  2. You must clean when you change products, especially if allergens are part of the equation.  If you are running, for example, 5 lines Monday through Friday and you need to convert one of the lines over to peanut-free, then you must shut down that line and clean it.  This takes that expensive line out of the production model which means (assuming you need the production) either weekend work or the need to buy more capital.  If you had an idle line, you could simply set up that line and then shift to it when needed.  A better schedule can make this happen.
  3. You must shut down based on a biological emergence rate.  Bacteria become a hazard in a very predictable time frame based on conditions.  The same is true for a number of other pests. The schedule being worked has no impact on this.

Let’s suppose that in your operation, you are running 7 lines for 5 days.  This means you are using 35 line-days a week.

Suppose you went to running 5 lines for 7 days a week.  This still gives you 35 line-days a week.  However, this also addresses the first two issues above.  Running 24/7 on a line means you no longer have to clean a line weekly just because you are shutting down weekly.  It also frees up other lines so you can switch from one line to the other without experiencing lost production time.

Thus, looking at sanitation alone, we can see that just changing from 5-day operation to 7-day operation can save capacity and eliminate over-sanitation.

Freeing up extra lines also allows maintenance to work on equipment without having to wait until the weekend (where they now try to do a week’s work in 2 days.)
Freeing up extra line also allows you to do setups on one line while the other line is running.  You can then shift to the newly set up line without losing production.

Does this mean that you should be running your operation 24/7?

It’s never that easy.  Food Manufacturing has a lot of moving parts, schedule-wise.  Sanitation aside there is also seasonality and new product introduction.

The best schedule is one that carefully considers everything from both a business and an employee perspective.  Every industry is unique.  Every company is unique.  Every facility is unique.

It should not come as a surprise that every shift work solution is unique as well.

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Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585 to discuss your operations and how we can help you solve your shift work problems. You can also complete our contact form and we will call you.

The Impact of Local Unemployment

More often than not, companies come to us when they are out of capacity.  Overtime is high and the workforce is becoming tired.  Absenteeism is leading to under-staffing and more overtime.Ă‚  This is the type of death-spiral that does not right itself unassisted.

Improved shift scheduling can help.  However, one component is often to bring in more straight time hours – hiring more employees.

Given the currently high national unemployment rate, it can be hard to imagine that this would be one of the hardest parts of a schedule change.  Certainly, there are plenty of people out there looking for work, right?

Possibly.

Areas with high unemployment can be viewed as a “buyers market”; one in which a person is selling his time and the company is buying that time.  Since there are a lot of people willing to sell their time, the market is flooded and therefore, the buyer (the company) is in a stronger position when it comes to setting wages.

However, if manpower is scarce, this changes.  It becomes a “seller’s market”; one in which the person selling his time has more power and control over wages.

Where is the tipping point?

This is hard to precisely identify as it depends on the skill set you are looking for.  You may be in a high unemployment area but the skills you need are scarce so it will feel like a low unemployment situation.

However, most companies start to see the change when unemployment drops to about 6%. Above this number, it’s relatively easy to find labor.  Below this number,  labor starts to get scarce.

When unemployment drops below 5% companies really start to feel the pain.  Basically, everyone that wants a job already has one and those remaining are unemployable for some reason

Companies need to be prepared to sweeten the pot when this happens.  Wages alone will not attract and retain quality employees in a tight labor market.  Get creative with your schedules.  Have different schedules that offer appeal to different demographics.  We had one company actually place ads in the local newspaper touting the fact that they had several types of schedules to fit all different types of lifestyles.

Thinking outside of the box when it comes to work schedules is a low-cost way to attract and retain the people you want and need.

Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585.