Creating Social Distancing While Maintaining Production Levels

The global pandemic has caused a major economic slowdown forcing many companies to scale back production due to sharp cuts in demand. Suppose this doesn’t apply to you and instead, your demand has remained unchanged. Do you need to do anything differently? If your company depends on having a healthy workforce, the answer is obviously ‘Yes’!

We had shared tips for scheduling during the pandemic a few weeks ago in a blog post.  We included ideas such as staggering shift start times and lunches as well as creating a gap between crews.

Today the question is: how to create such a “gap” while maintaining production?

Let’s take the example of a company running 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. To maintain production, they need to maintain 120 hours of production every week. They want to keep their workers, however – in the current shift – there is no distancing in place (maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters distance between workers).[1] How can this be overcome? How to create that space while fulfilling your production and employment goals? Suppose, instead of shift handovers the workers never see each other.  What could be more “distancing” than that?

Request your free example here: contact@shift-work.com. Enter CLAIM120HOURS.

Shiftwork Solutions experts are available to help you adapt to new production goals and match your workforce to your production need. Give us a call at (415) 858-8585 or send us an email to contact@shift-work.com.

Ramping down production in an uncertain economic environment

Staffing done right in a shiftwork operation

The Institute for Supply Management’s New Orders Index reported nine industries where new orders declined in March [1]. If your company is among those who experienced a demand drop due to the COVID-19 disruption and therefore, you want to swiftly ramp down your production ― you are going to need a plan of action.

We are not talking about a traditional downswing.  Those happen all the time due to factors like seasonality, changes in consumer behaviors, or obsolescence.  What we are going to cover here is how to ramp down quickly due to a sudden, and unexpected change in demand.  To further complicate this scenario, we will couple it with a foreknowledge that at some unknown point in the future, you will need to ramp back up again; possibly very quickly.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution here.  However, there are several considerations, some of which may apply to you while others are out of the question for your operation.  In all cases, we recommend that you prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Act as if the slowdown will last for a very long time but be ready to ramp up if things turn around quickly.

Workforce Considerations

While every employee is important to your operation, some are more costly to replace than others.  If you have to let people go, make sure you have a priority list of those high-skilled employees you don’t want to lose.  Keeping those skilled people will help you ramp back up quickly when the time comes.  If a skilled position is eliminated as you cut back, lose the job but keep the person.  Find another place for that person to work.  A high-paid operator can move down to a lower-paid position such as a stacker, for the short run.  Make sure you communicate that such a demotion is “just until things return to normal” and that a cut in pay is not involved.  An operator that is moved to the stacker position would still get operator pay – if you want to keep that person.

It may be that you just need to cut back on hours across the board.  Everyone loses some hours.  This shares the pain of cutbacks.  You don’t let some people go so that others will be unaffected.  This can be done in conjunction with efforts to maintain social distancing.  For example, if you are covering 24/7 with 12-hour shifts, you can instead use 11-hour shifts.  This would allow you to cover 22/7 while allowing downtime between shifts to allow for sanitizing while minimizing interaction between employees on different crews. 

Consider reducing your crew size using voluntary/mandatory layoffs of pre-determined lengths.  One group goes on layoff for a certain number of weeks and then they return while another group goes on layoff.  The idea is to keep your employees close to your company so they can all come back when needed.

Non-Human Capital Considerations

“There is never enough time to get things done.”  I think I have heard this at every company I have worked with over the last 30 years.  And its always been true…until now.

Cutting back on production does not mean that everything it takes to produce must come to a stop.

What have you wanted to do but couldn’t because lines were up and running?  Take a look at what you wanted to do in the coming months or even the coming years.  Pull that work forward.  Get your maintenance PM’s up to 100%.  That line you wanted to upgrade in 2021, upgrade it now.  Taking down water, steam, and HVAC systems can easily bring everything to a stop. Now is the time to get that work done.

It may be more costly than originally projected to move a project forward.  However, if you take into consideration that moving a project forward will avoid production interruption in the future, the math may change dramatically in favor of getting it done now.

In summary

When demand returns, market share will go to the one most ready to capture it.  Well maintained production lines with the latest upgrades will put you in the pole position.  A trained workforce, ready to get back to work will put you at the front of the pack.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

Don’t see the downturn as “unfortunate.”  See it as an opportunity – because it is.

Shiftwork Solutions experts are available to help you adapt to new production goals and match your workforce to your production need.  We align workforce schedules with your business goals and implement a tailored solution in a guided change process. We emphasize communication in every phase from planning to execution and involve the workforce to arrive at the most optimal result for your situation.  Our proven, data-driven process will enable you to bring about the desired changes to efficiently engage your workforce and “Do it Right” as fast as possible. 

Give us a call at (415) 858-8585 or send us an email to contact@shift-work.com and we’ll call you.

If you are currently ramping up to help fight the Covid-19 virus, make sure you mention that so we can move you to the front of the line.

[1] March 2020 Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® Source  

Ramping up production

Staffing done right in a shiftwork operation

If your company is among those who experienced a demand surge due to recent disruptive changes and therefore, you want to swiftly ramp up your production ― you are going to need a plan of action.

How do you take the first step in the design of matching the workforce to the increased production needs?

Top considerations before executing production expansion

To avoid inefficiencies our first bit of advice is to be thorough before proceeding forward.  It is perhaps more important than any other time to act swiftly, yet doing it wrong the first time and fixing mistakes retrospectively is often time-consuming and costly.

Defining your goal and evaluating your options in advance are the keys to success. Answering the following questions will put you on the right trajectory to achieve the planned outcomes and deliver the wanted changes sooner. It will also clarify the steps to be taken for an apt change in your operational routines. Consider these about demand and output, resources, operations, and financial implications:

  • What is the expected output volume?
  • Is this growth temporary or permanent?
  • When do we need to reach a higher capacity?
  • How do we match our in-kind assets to our human resources to achieve the desired outcome?
  • How many people do we need?
  • How do we schedule the workforce?
  • Can we use temporary labor and overtime in the short run?
  • What schedule will be most beneficial to the workforce?
  • What schedule will be most beneficial to the company?
  • How to take care of the skill distribution?
  • What leadership roles will be affected?
  • Do we need more supervision? What supervisor/worker ratio is ideal for the given workforce pool and goals?
  • Will our maintenance plan need to change?
  • What happens to support services when producing more (QA, Logistics, sanitation, etc.)?
  • How will safety, quality control be impacted?
  • Can we make continuous improvements and reduce waste in our LEAN production environment while in an expansion?
  • How will raw materials and finished goods inventories be impacted?
  • What external factors could limit your options (i.e. supply chain, shipping, receiving)?
  • What about profitability? What happens to our cost structure if we produce more with fixed capital? What will be the financial impact of overtime or straight time work?
  • Can we have a schedule that produces savings or improved cost/margin ratios? What schedule pattern will boost our ROI?

Lessons learned

The above guide will help you address the most important considerations when planning ahead.  However, all of this assumes you have the time and expertise to proceed with an expansion project along a reasonable timeline.  We far too often see that the mandate is “Get it done now no matter what the cost!”  And that is when inefficiencies are created, opportunities missed, an agile response is hindered, costs soar and the production capacities are not utilized to their maximum potential. When the management becomes aware of those occurrences they often acknowledge:  “We didn’t have time to do anything other than throw bodies at the problem.” Familiar?

Going forward

Consider the above questions before executing a growth strategy and if you want to “Do It Right the First Time”. Businesses must continue driving efficiencies, and pay attention to engaging the workforce on every skill level and respond with agility to achieve the wanted outcome.

Shiftwork Solutions experts are available to help you adapt to new production goals and match your workforce to your production need.  We align workforce schedules with your business goals and implement a tailored solution in a guided change process. We emphasize communication in every phase from planning to execution and efficiently engage your workforce to arrive at the most optimal result for your situation.  Our proven, data-driven process will enable you to bring about the desired changes to “Do it Right” as fast as possible. 

Give us a call at (415) 858-8585 or send us an email to contact@shift-work.com.

If you are currently ramping up to help fight the Covid-19 virus, make sure you mention that so we can move you to the front of the line.