6-day schedules (part 2)

Part I of this series was posted a few days ago and discussed some of the problems surrounding 6-day schedules.  I recommend you read that posting before going forward with this one.

Today’s post will begin the focus on schedule patterns; specifically, those patterns that cover 24 hours a day for 6 days each week.  I will cover one schedule per post for the next four posts so be sure to stay tuned.

Let’s start with the most basic way of covering 6 days.  All you need to do is, sometime during the week, tell everyone, “I’ll see you all on Saturday.”  Then, when everyone shows up on Saturdays (good luck with that), you will find that you have quite neatly covered 6 days a week.

6 day part 2

The best thing about this pattern is that you can easily contract back to a 5-day schedule.  Just don’t work on Saturday and you’re there.  Another plus is the fact that the supervisors can stay with their crews.  Employees will have mixed feelings about this.  They don’t like working all of their Saturdays or having only one day off per week.  They do, however, like getting 30% more pay (due to overtime) than they did when they had all of their weekends off.

On the down-side, this is not really a sustainable way to cover the 6th day.  People are simply working too many days in a row with not enough time off to recuperate at the end of the week.  One plant that I recently worked with showed a positive relationship between the number of days of work each month and the OSHA Recordable Rate – as the number of days went up, so did the Recordable Rate.  In fact, the relationship was so strong that 56% of the increases and decreases in the Recordable Rate were statistically attributed to the number of days people worked.  At the same time, this company’s Productivity Index showed an inverse relationship.  As the number of days worked by an employee when up, the measure of productivity went down.

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6-day schedules (part 1)

Sometimes companies are born into a 24/7 schedule.  An example would be a refinery.  From the moment it was conceived until it reached operational retirement, it was a 24/7 operation.  There are many examples like this.

More often than not, 24/7 schedules are something that companies grow into.  They start off covering one or two shifts during the week.  As they expand, they add more shifts; more hours of productivity.  It’s these companies that I’d like to talk about today.  More specifically, I’d like to talk about the murky waters of 6-day operations that companies often wade through as they transition from a 5-day workweek to a 7-day workweek.

I use the term “murky waters” because there is no easy path when you are sitting on the cusp; when 5 days a week is too little and 7 days a week too much.

People don’t think about this much until they get there.  Only then does the reality of their situation set in.  That reality is: There are no good 6-day schedules.

That may actually be a little judgmental as “good” is in the eye of the beholder and I can certainly name a few companies we’ve worked with where a 6-day schedule was perfect for both – operations and the workforce.  However, in the vast majority of 6-day operations, the options are few and not very attractive.

Let’s look at this first from a staffing perspective.

A schedule that covers 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday is a 120-hour schedule.  That is, it covers 120 hours of the week from when it starts to when it finishes.  This is an important number since we need to hire people to cover those hours every week.  A 120-hour schedule uses three crews, each working 40 hours a week on average (note: There are 3-crew, 12-hour schedules that average 40 hours by working 36 hours twice and 48 hours once in a 3-week cycle).  So, once you have your three crews, you are ready to go.

A schedule that covers 24 hours a day, every day of the week (24/7) will use four crews.  This is because there are 168 hours in a week.  If you divide those hours among 4 crews, each crew will get 42 hours on average (note: Using 8’s, their weekly hours will be 40, 40, 40 and 48.   Using 12’s, half the weeks will have 36 hours and half will have 42 hours.)

So, if a 5-day schedule uses 3 crews and a 7-day schedule uses 4 crews, where does that leave us with a 6-day schedule?

The answer is, we need 3.6 crews to cover 24 hours a day, 6-days a week.  This is true if the average workweek is 40 hours.

The complexity of this type of crewing will be covered in the next blog post which I will post in a few days.  Suffice to say, partial crews raise all types of issues with supervision, rotation, and cross-training.

Now let’s look at the operational issues.

The single biggest problem is maintenance.  Depending on your facility and industry, there can be several similar types of issues like sanitation or changeovers and such.  I’ll just discuss maintenance here because it is a fairly universal problem with 6-day schedules.

For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to assume that you must turn over your equipment to maintenance for one shift per week.

When a company runs 5 days a week, maintenance is inevitably pushed to the weekends.  This may not be good for the maintenance people who have to work every Saturday and Sunday, but it allows the largest portion of the workforce, those not in maintenance, to have the weekend off.   The good news is that maintenance will have 2 full days to get all of their work done before operations start back up on Monday.

When a company makes the leap to 7-day operations, maintenance opportunities actually improve.  Instead of trying to get everything fixed on a weekend, maintenance can now get access during the week.  Why?  Because maintenance has to be done and there is no longer any compelling reason to do it on the weekends.  So, why not start doing your maintenance when there are vendors, outside shops, engineers and supervision more readily available.  In short, maintenance is better done on the weekdays than on the weekends.  If you are going to lose a shift of operations to maintenance at some point in the week, pick that shift where maintenance is better accomplished.

Now we get to the 6-day schedule.  Operations will make the case that they need to run 6 days so maintenance should do their work on Sunday.  If you do maintenance anywhere other than Sunday, this means a productive shift is lost that must be replaced and the only place to add it back is…Sunday.  The choice becomes (1) maintenance on Sunday or (2) maintenance not on Sunday and the workforce comes in for a shift on Sunday to make up for the one lost to maintenance during the week.  Since the largest portion of the operation is not made up of maintenance people, they win and thus, get Sundays off.  This means maintenance is now saddled with doing a week’s worth of work in a single, weekend day.

Depending on the size of your plant, the scope of your maintenance and the reliability of your equipment, this may simply not be achievable.  You may not have enough maintenance people at your facility to do all of the work that needs to be done in a single day.  Maintenance will do their best but still, shortcuts may be the tool of last resort.  If your equipment is highly sensitive to partial maintenance, then it will begin to shut itself down during the week in protest of the lack of attention it got on the weekend.

Maintenance may add more people to their crews in an attempt to have more people available on the weekend.  This may actually work but can also result in overstaffing during the weekdays when everything is running and only corrective maintenance or project work can get done.

Maintenance may resort to using a Weekend Crew so they can add people without overstaffing during the week.  This may also work, however since Sunday is only one day and a weekend crew is, at the very least, a 2-day crew, you will still end up being overstaffed on Saturday when everything is still running.

So there you have it.  Staffing-wise, 6-day schedules are mathematically complex.  Operational-wise, you are out of room to do the support work that most operations require to run reliably.

In my next posting, I will cover schedules that address these issues with varying degrees of success.

Call Us and We Can Help

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.

See more blog posts:

6-day schedules (part 2)

6-day schedules (part 3)

6-day schedules (part 4)

Overtime: Fact V. Fiction

It is not unusual for a company to contact us with the following idea: “If I can just put in the right schedule, I will save a ton of money on overtime.”

There is really just one condition where this is absolutely true.  If your current schedule has too many people at one part of the week and not enough people at another part of the week, the right schedule will correctly redistribute these people and you will save a ton of money.

Then there are times when this is partially true.  If your operation is expanding and the size of your workforce is fixed, then overtime will go up.  When overtime goes up the following happens: (1) The workforce makes more money, (2) The workforce becomes fatigued, (3) Productivity per person will drop, (4) The accident rate per hour will go up, (5) Quality will decrease and absenteeism and turnover will increase.

The perfect schedule will allow you to keep these from happening.  It does this by allowing you to add straight time hours to “replace” overtime hours.

Note the use of the term “replace.”

In most cases, reducing overtime means adding straight time.  From a cost perspective, the two are nearly identical.  Straight time costs include wages AND benefits as well as taxes.  Overtime costs include a premium rate and taxes.  In the end, they typically cost the company the same.  What this means is if you say, “We can eliminate $1 million a quarter in overtime costs with a better schedule!”  It is very likely that your next sentence should be “However, we will also spend $1 million a quarter in additional straight time costs.”

This is not to say you should not keep a handle on your overtime.  Too much will certainly cost you; often in disastrous ways (as noted above).  However, overtime should not be seen as the “low hanging” fruit on the road to reduced costs.

If you want to reduce your costs – increase your volume.

There is no simpler way to do it.

By the way, most companies, with level production levels find that an overtime rate between 5% and 15% is just about right.  Keep in mind, in a typical workforce, 20% of your workforce avoids all overtime.  20% of your workforce loves all the overtime they can get.  The remaining 60% will work what they feel is a fair amount.

If you want to know how your workforce feels about overtime… Ask them.  Don’t guess. Or…

 Call Us and We Can Help

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.