Characteristics of Effective Shift Schedules

When considering alternative shift schedules, you should evaluate how they affect your cost structure and whether they make your operation easier to manage. At a minimum, an effective schedule should:

  • Keep your best and/or most expensive equipment productive, i.e. maximize your equipment utilization.
  • Provide continuous coverage in areas that have significant start-up and shutdown costs.
  • Match the coverage to the workload. In other words, provide enough coverage to get the necessary work done, and no more.
  • Have the ability to flex up to meet customer demands, flex down when the workload is low.
  • Not be constrained by pay and work policies that make normal operating situations excessively expensive.

Let’s examine each of these five characteristics in more detail.

Maximize Equipment Utilization

Equipment utilization can be a huge economic driver in establishing the level of coverage that your schedule should provide. Since there are 168 available operating hours in a week (24 x 7), you should use this as your basis for evaluating equipment utilization.

Part of the operating hours is used for maintenance, setup, cleaning and product changeovers. The typical plant loses 15% of its operating time to perform these functions, which reduces equipment utilization to 85%.

Many companies plan their operations around a schedule that provides five days of coverage, 24 hours a day. This is a 120-hour planning week that, at best, yields an equipment utilization of 71.4% (120/168). Using the typical 0.85 operating factor results in a utilization of only 60.7%.

Therefore, the typical facility running five days a week can expect to increase equipment utilization by about 24% (85% – 60.7%) with a 7-day schedule.

Figure 1 demonstrates the value of improving the equipment utilization for $1 million worth of equipment. As an example, if your plant has $25 million of capital and equipment invested at a 10% cost of capital, you could realize a savings of $550,000/year by changing from 5-days to 7-days a week.

Provide Continuous Coverage

In a manufacturing environment, there are often significant benefits to using a schedule that provides continuous coverage. Operations that unnecessarily shut down their equipment for breaks, lunches, shift changes, or at the conclusion of the workweek are probably increasing their overall cost structure. Increased costs are generated by:

  • Losses of equipment utilization of up to 11%.
  • Labor required to complete start-up and shutdown procedures (cleaning, setup, and adjustment) that do not result in actual production and would not be required if the equipment continued to operate.
  • Scrap created as part of the start-up or shutdown process.
  • Lost capacity opportunities experienced as “bugs” are worked out of the system on start-up. This also results in lower labor productivity.
  • Increased maintenance problems caused by cycling the equipment more than necessary.

Continuous coverage can be provided at shift change by having face-to-face turnover meetings between operators on attended equipment. While this may require some overlap, it also creates an environment of accountability and fosters communication between shifts.

Equipment does not need to be shut down for breaks and lunches if a break relief system is used. One of the best systems uses dedicated relief personnel who move from position to position to allow operating personnel to take breaks. In addition to keeping equipment running, this type of system encourages personnel to stick to their assigned break times so that they do not adversely affect their co-workers.

In some plants, an alternative to using relief personnel is to run short-staffed during breaks and use cross-trained personnel from nearby areas to alert personnel on break if a problem occurs. This usually is not as effective as using actual relief personnel, since problems that do occur during a break are normally not handled as well as they would be if dedicated personnel were readily available.

Match Coverage to the Workload

It is surprising how many companies force their production and staffing plans to fit their shift schedule rather than the other way around. This type of mismatch can result in hidden costs that could easily be eliminated with an appropriate schedule.

As an example of this type of situation, consider a manufacturer with ten production lines using a traditional 120-hour (5×24) schedule. This plant’s product demand requires the ten lines to run about 90% of the time. In other words, one line will normally be scheduled down at any given time, resulting in 10% overstaffing in the plant.

An alternative to this strategy is to design a schedule that would provide 90% of the current coverage, i.e. a schedule that provides full coverage for 108 hours each week. This will eliminate the 10% idle time built into the traditional 120-hour schedule, and lower facility costs such as utilities.

Let’s assume the managers at this plant have done their homework, and recognize the overstaffing situation. They realize that their employees are going to be absent for about two and a half weeks for vacations and about one week for illness and other reasons (this is about 7% absenteeism). Given this situation, they have made the decision to staff for ten lines, and reassign personnel from the down line to fill coverage gaps on the operating lines.

This all sounds reasonable, but it isn’t cheap. Even if the absence theory holds up, the plant still appears to be three percent overstaffed. In reality, the absence theory does not hold up either. Seven percent of the workforce will not be absent every day the plant operates. Some days it will be more than seven percent and on other days it will be less. The two possible solutions are to reduce the day-to-day staffing and never run ten lines at a time or to implement a schedule with less than 120 hours/week of coverage.

Prepare for Variable Workloads

Many manufacturing companies experience variable workloads due to changes in product demand, or variable staffing availability due to vacations and illness. For example, Figure 2 shows the weekly operating hours needed to meet the production demand for one year at a Mid-Western manufacturer.

In order to provide exactly the right amount of coverage for this type of variable workload using personnel working 40-hour workweeks and no overtime, we would continually increase and decrease the staffing in parallel with the changing product demand. For example, assuming 100 people are required to staff this plant with straight time, given the changing product demand, the number of people required would vary as shown in Figure 3.

Since most companies want to keep employees for the long term, they try to maintain the same staffing level throughout the year. This makes a situation like the one shown in Figure 3 undesirable. Therefore, variable demand fluctuations are met by varying the coverage with secondary coverage adjustment mechanisms, such as planned overtime, temporary employees, training and other discretionary work management, and planned time-off management. Short-term adjustments include unplanned overtime and using temporary or contract labor.

Revise Pay and Work Policies

The best shift schedules have a set of pay and work policies that are matched to the schedule. Most pay and work policy systems were designed to manage a Monday through Friday, eight-hour shift schedule. Typical policies on this schedule include:

  • Daily premium paid for hours worked beyond 8 hours/day.
  • Weekend premiums for working on Sat. and Sun.
  • Holidays, vacations, and other paid time-off are paid and tracked in eight-hour blocks.

When these policies are applied to schedules that use different shift lengths or cover more than five days in a week, they will usually increase the cost to operate the facility. This increased cost results in more operating restrictions and lowers your ability to respond to your customers’ demands.

The best schedules have custom-designed pay and work policies that allow the operation the maximum flexibility while still meeting the principles that traditional schedules were designed to meet. That is, they:

  • Meet all Federal, State, and Local labor laws.
  • Pay employees a premium when they must work in unusual situations (e.g. work longer than scheduled or on a day-off).
  • Provide income replacement for paid time off.
  • Equalize pay when workweeks are not balanced.
  • Equally compensate employees working the same jobs, side-by-side, under the same conditions (including the number of hours worked and days off), on different shift schedules.

Satisfying these principles should result in a schedule and pay/work policy combination that avoids the 2-15% cost increase that many companies feel they must absorb when they change to a schedule that better meets their production demands.

Satisfy Employee Requirements

While the focus of this article has been on the business characteristics of effective shift schedules, effective schedules also meet the needs of the workforce. The schedule belongs to the people that work it, and at most companies, things run better when the people are happy. Some of the top issues that employees want to see addressed when they are asked to evaluate alternative schedules are:

  • Pay — especially overtime and weekend/shift premiums.
  • Time off — especially on weekends and holidays.
  • Predictability. Most workers prefer some consistency in their time off.
  • Job difficulty & fatigue — long shifts, numerous shifts worked in a row, and rate of rotation all can affect the attractiveness of a shift schedule.

The bottom line is that you must understand what your employees want if you are going to implement a successful schedule. The best schedule for the business is no good if the employees can’t live with it.

We can help you find the most effective shift work solution to address your needs. Call or text us today at (415) 858-8585.

The Weekend Warrior Trap

Human Resource Managers; how would you like a schedule that your employees will love?

Plant Managers, how about a schedule that adds 40% more potential production hours onto your weekly schedule?

Now that the hook is baited….shall we take a bite?

If that particular schedule calls for you to hire a weekend crew (aka Weekend Warrior Schedule) then you will want to give this idea a pass.

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 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 day crew, an 8-hour afternoon crew, and an 8-hour night crew.  Note that the weekend crews will augment the regular weekday crews when they come in for their additional shifts during the week.

While there are several variations to this concept, these three represent the lion’s share of what we have seen out there.

Now that we’ve clarified the type of schedule, let’s look at The Bait & 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.   Potential employees 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.

Let us help you find a customized shiftwork solution that best fits the production needs of your site. 

Use our process of employee engagement to ensure the workforce buys into your new schedule.

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 best way to schedule your maintenance crew in a 24/7 operation

Maintenance Managers, you know the drill – Keep the equipment running and still, somehow, get your maintenance done.

On a 5-day schedule, this typically means Maintenance “maintains” during the week and “repairs” during the weekend.

When a plant shifts to 24/7 operations, the first thought of maintenance people is “Where do we go now?”  The weekend, once reserved for maintenance, is now 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?”

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.  We will cover all three of these here.

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, maintenance managers 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. Overstaffing the corrective maintenance crew is a mistake often made. Maintenance managers need to realize that there will never be enough people to always ensure there is enough coverage for every possible contingency.  It is better to have an effective plan for augmenting your crew in an emergency.

Preventative Maintenance

Surprisingly, Preventive Maintenance is actually easier to accomplish on a 24/7 schedule than 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.  For example: instead of trying to repair all production lines on Saturday (typically an impossible task), you now take down one line at a time; leaving the others up and running.  Maintenance personnel rather do preventative maintenance during the day shift on weekdays.  Not only is this the preferred schedule for your people, but 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.

In summary, maintenance scheduling for a 24/7 operation opens up new opportunities that allow for better schedules for your maintenance employees while improving overall maintenance accomplishment and equipment reliability.

Give us a call today and discuss how we can help you get the most out of your maintenance department in a shiftwork operation.

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

Everyone Wants to Work Day Shift, Right? Think again!

We all know that shift work, and especially night shift, is difficult. For some folks, it can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and non-traditional social interactions with friends and family members. As a result, it is a common perception that, when it comes to shift work, everyone would prefer to work the day shift.

Over the last 20+ years, we have asked thousands of shift workers what their preferred shift assignment is. In an 8-hour, three-shift situation, you can see in the graphic that it is true that most people want to work day shift (71%), but there are also 15% that want to work the afternoon shift and 14% that want to work the night shift. In other words, in typical three-shift operation, you have a majority of people (33% on days + 15% on afternoons + 14% on nights =62%) satisfied with their shift assignment instead of dissatisfied with their shift assignment.
8-hour shift preference

A similar situation exists with 12-hour shift schedules.  When we asked shift workers whether they prefer a 12-hour day shift or a 12-hour night shift, 80% prefer the day shift and 20% prefer the night shift.  So like 8-hour shift schedules, you have a majority of people (50% on days + 20% on nights = 70%) satisfied with their shift schedule assignment.
12-hour shift preference

With these results, we can see that the majority of people do prefer day shift, but far from all of them. And, given that the typical 24-hour shiftwork operation is usually equally staffed on all shifts, or staffed more heavily on day shift than other shifts, we see that the majority of people get their preferred shift assignments even though the majority prefer day shift.

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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.

How many people does it take to staff your schedule? (Part 2)

There is a short answer and a long answer to this question.  Here is a link to the short answer.

As for the long answer:

Take a look at the “short answer” in the previous blog post.  That is a good place to start.

The following should be considered to refine the number you get using the “short answer”:

  1. The cost of full-time labor matters.  How much does it cost you to pay someone for an hour of straight time?  How much does it cost you to pay for an hour of overtime?  I am not talking about “how much an employee receives.”  I’m talking about cost-to-the-company.  If you do the analysis correctly, you should find that the two costs (overtime and straight time) are within 10% of each other.  This is important because the amount of overtime you use will play a big factor in staffing levels.  For a fixed workload, the higher the overtime, the lower the staffing level you need.
  2. How much training does it take to qualify an employee for a position?  It is likely that there is a wide variance in this with regard to different positions.  Do Not use and “average”.  If you need an astrophysicist and a box stacker, an average will give you a bad number (4 years of post-graduate study for the physicist and 5 minutes for the stacker = about 2 years, on average, to train an employee).  Long training times lead to increased use of overtime and less reliance on other labor options such as temporary help.  If your workforce is staffed with highly skilled people, whose skills are easily transferable to another nearby company, then you will have to bend a more towards compensation scheduling and employee preferences for overtime so as to not lose these people.
  3. How variable is your workload?  If your workload level is flat, you will still have some fluctuations in staffing as people are on vacation or FMLA, etc.  When staffing fluctuates, you have extra staffing available or you can use overtime or you can reduce production.  Cost, degree of variability, employee preference and the nature of your operations will all play a role in determining how you staff for variability.   It’s worth noting here that the most expensive option is to over-staff or staff for peak production as this leads to frequent over-staffing which is costly. A highly variable workload tends to mean lower staffing and higher overtime.
  4. How available are alternative sources of labor? Is your workforce pro-overtime or overtime-adverse?  Is temporary or part-time labor available? If you are in Memphis and need temporary, highly skill forklift drivers, there are temp. agencies that can give you all this type of labor that you want.  However, if you need those same temporary skills in San Francisco, you may need to “grow your own.”  Can you scale back with seasonality by using shorter workweeks or voluntary layoffs?  Note: If the answer is no, the staff to the lower end and use overtime when things get busy.
  5. What about support activities?  Things like maintenance, engineering, quality shipping/receiving and administration all need to be staffed appropriately as you grow (or shrink).  There is no simple formula for how to staff these as there is often not a “straight line” relationship between staffing numbers in operations and staffing numbers for support areas.  For example, a 30% increase in operation staffing does not mean you need 30% more CFO’s.  In some areas, you may actually find that you need less support staff.  For example, maintenance struggles to fix everything on the weekend but if you go to a 24/7 schedule, maintenance can now take place any time in the week; including weekdays where it can be performed more efficiently.
  6. Are you LEAN?  It’s “old school” to think you should stockpile between cells in a value stream to ensure you never run out of product either upstream or downstream.  Instead, just-in-time is what modern operations strive for.  Many companies can maximize or throttle production using staffing alone.   This may mean you staff an area below its maximum capacity to ensure it does not outrun its value stream neighbors.
  7. What is the opportunity cost of lost time?  This must be a consideration if you are going to staff with as few people as possible.  You may save a lot of money by having fewer maintenance specialists but then you might lose even more money if you suffer downtime because you are understaffed.

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.

How many people does it take to staff your schedule? (Part 1)

As with most shiftwork related issues, the question of “How Many?” has a short and a long answer.
Here is a link to the long answer.

Let’s start with the short answer.

Add up all of the man-hours that need to be covered and divide by 40.  For example, if you need 30 people for 8 hours a day, Monday – Friday and 20 people for 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday, you would do the following math:

(30 people * 8 hours * 5 days) plus (20 people * 12 hours * 2 days) to get 1,680

Now, divide 1,680 by 40 to get 42.

This means you should use 42 people on some type of schedule to provide the coverage.  With that number (42), you should expect to see an overtime rate around 10% once you take into account things like vacation, sickness, extra work and such.

That’s the short answer and as such, it could be perfect or it could be wildly inaccurate based on your operation.

Part 2 of this post gets into the longer answer.

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.

6-day schedules (part 4)

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, let’s consider a schedule that covers 6 days with 40-hour workweeks.  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 it’s “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 workplaces.  However, in the short run, it may be just what you need.

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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 difference between “a schedule” and “your schedule”

The number one way that companies find a shift schedule is to hold a meeting and ask, “So, does anyone know of any shift schedule patterns?”

There are several false assumptions built into this methodology.  One is that all schedules are created equal; that any schedule that covers the hours needed is as good as any other schedule.  Another is that the workforce, having been allowed to choose between a couple of patterns will be satisfied that their needs have been considered.  Also, there is the one-size-fits-all idea which says that if one area goes to a 24/7 schedule (for example) then all other areas must follow suit.  There is the staffing assumption that you must staff to allow for ZERO overtime and that all areas of the operation must increase or decrease staffing levels in lock-step; that is to say, if a new schedule covers 40% more hours you will need 40% more employees across the board (including supervision, quality, maintenance, etc.)  Finally, there is the assumption that policies for things such as holidays and vacations, which worked for your old schedule, will also work for your new schedule.

There are actually many, many more issues that are overlooked or swept under the carpet in the name of expediency, but I think you get the picture.

The right schedule is one that is implemented using the old carpenter’s adage of “Measure Twice and Cut Once.”

Taking the time to do a schedule change right will not only save you from problems down the road but will likely result in immediate productivity gains and cost decreases which are not realized by the “Who knows a schedule pattern” methodology.

Here are my thoughts on just a couple of the “assumptions” mentioned above.

Employee participation is more than just allowing them to select between a couple of patterns.  Participation means they know why a change is taking place.  They are educated about what schedules can do (and can’t do).  They are given a wide variety of options that span the range of what is available instead of just a few similar patterns.  They are allowed to have meaningful input on things like overtime levels, start times, the day on/off patterns and more.  They are given “perfect” information about their final options in such a way as to allow them to discuss the options with their families before making a choice.

One-size-does NOT-fit-all:  You may have an operation that absolutely needs to go to 24/7 (for example).  In some cases, this means a “balanced” schedule across all days of the week where every day has the same number of people in production.  However, suppose one or more areas can keep up with the 24/7 production by only running one shift a week; should they go to the 24/7 schedule?  What about maintenance?  Should they have a “balanced” schedule or should the labor be moved to parts of the week that maximize production?  Remember, maintenance is at its peak performance when production is at its lowest.  (It’s hard to fix equipment while it is running.)  What about quality, engineering, and office staff?  These areas rarely need to go to a 24/7 schedule (in their entirety) when production does.   The “Best Schedule” is usually a collection of schedules that allow all areas to operate and support each other seamlessly.

Staffing is where most companies make the most costly mistakes.  They either over-staff and thus, pay for labor they don’t need or they under-staff and run the risk of high fatigue and turnover that typically come with a worn-out workforce.  Staffing is not guesswork.  There are mathematical solutions that will tell you what the optimal staffing level is for your site.

As for policies, let me just say this: “If you think your 5-day policies will all work just fine on a 24/7 schedule – you are wrong.”

If you decide to “go it alone” let me at least offer you this: Give me a call when you get stuck.  So long as I don’t have to pick up a pencil, I’m free.  So don’t make a mistake because you didn’t have someone to go to. 

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.

6-day schedules (part 3)

This is the third in a series about 6-day schedules.  I recommend you read 6-day schedules (part 1) and 6-day scheduled (part 2) before going forward with this one.

Today’s post will begin the focus on a 12-hour schedule pattern for covering 24 hours a day, six days a week.

The premise behind this schedule is that you still only want to use three crews to cover six days, but you would rather not hire more employees.  Because of this, everyone will still have to work 48 hours a week (changing schedules does not change total hours worked.  Only changing staffing or the workload does that).  This schedule allows people to get their weekly 48 hours in by only coming to work for four days a week.

Let’s look at a quick comparison:

8-hour shifts: Work 6 days @ 8 hours and get one day off per week.  Total hours worked – 48

12-hour shifts: Work 4 days @ 12 hours and get three days off per week.  Total hours worked – 48

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This pattern can be worked as either a fixed schedule, a rotating schedule or and oscillating schedule.  The way it is shown here is as an oscillating schedule.  This is a schedule that has both “fixed” and “rotating” features.  In this example, the crews labeled “Days” and “Nights” are working fixed shifts.  That means they are always on Days or Nights.  The crew labeled “Day-Night” actually rotates between Day shift and Night shift (Nights on Mondays and Tuesday and then Days on Fridays and Saturdays).

There are several benefits to this schedule over a traditional 6-day, 8-hour pattern.

Employees will like it for a variety of reasons.  All will appreciate the extra days off.  The Day shift people will like having every weekend off as a 3-day weekend.  The Night shift people will like having 3 days off in a row, even though they are Sunday through Tuesday.  The rotating crew will typically be the junior-most crew.  As the junior employees, they could be looking at years before they have enough seniority to get to the Day shift.  In this schedule, they work the Night shift for 2 days and then do not have to return to nights for another five days.

On the downside, the nature of the work must always be considered when looking at 12-hour shifts.  In nearly all cases, if someone can do something for 8 hours at a time for 6 days in a row with a single day of rest in between, then they can do that same thing for 12 hours at a time for 4 days a week with three days off per week to rest.

Most companies that go to 12-hour shifts will find that they need to rework some of their pay policies.  For example, if you only pay up to 8 hours a day when someone goes on jury duty, you may want to rethink that policy.

In 6-day schedules (part 4) I will return to the 8-hour idea.  We will look at a way to add people in a less-than-full-crew increment to reduce overtime.

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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.