Best Practices in Shift Work Operations (Part 2 of 10)

Operators and Sanitors should be the same people.  The sanitation process associate with all food manufacturing processes is often a time-thief.  It takes away from valuable production time. Many such operations will have a separate sanitation crew that specializes in sanitation but is not skilled or staffed to run the lines.  This has two negative impacts.  First, the sanitation crew needs a regular schedule, and this is often accommodated by shutting down for an entire shift to let them come in and do their job.  In such cases, it is possible to complete the sanitation process in a partial shift but is metered across an entire shift by using fewer sanitors.  The result is that they may be sanitizing about only 16 hours of runtime when they could run 24 or 40 hours or more without needing to sanitize.  The second negative impact is that if sanitation finishes early, there are no operators present to run the equipment; lines sit idle until the next shift starts.  If operators are sanitors, you can run for as long as you want as there is no longer a designated sanitation shift.  Also, when sanitation is needed, you can perform using an entire production crew and then start right back up immediately.

Do not overstaff.  From a labor cost perspective, there is only one number that matters – Adverse Cost. This is the additional cost you pay for not being perfectly staffed.  If you are perfectly staffed, this cost is zero.  If you are understaffed and have to pay overtime, the Adverse Cost is the difference between your lowest cost option (paid when perfectly staffed) and the cost of overtime.  Since overtime is about 5% to 10% more costly than straight time, your adverse cost is at extra 5% to 10% you had to pay because you were understaffed.  If you are overstaffed, the Adverse Cost is 100% of the cost of that labor since the perfect staffing would have been zero as the position need not have been filled at all.  Thus, the cost of overstaffing can be an order of magnitude greater than the cost of understaffing.

Listen carefully for the term “unfair”.  This word has a far different connotation than say, “I am unhappy.”  When an employee says, “unfair” they are starting to take a particular circumstance and making it personal.  People will complain if they are unhappy.  They will quit if they feel they are being treated unfairly.

Perception matters more than reality.  People respond to conditions as they believe them to exist.  Whether they exist or not is unimportant.  Pay is a good example of this.  If employees are the best paid in the area and have the best compensation package around, they will still perform as if they are underpaid if they believe they are underpaid.  In other words, they will underperform because of perception.  The cure for this is open communications. 

20% of your workforce will work all the overtime you can give them.  This is an extremely useful fact.  So many companies struggle with overtime; generally having to pass out more than the workforce is willing to take on.  However, if you have a fixed amount of overtime and can funnel it to people that want it, you will end up forcing less on those that don’t.  It’s often a tendency to think that complaints about too much overtime means that everyone is complaining.  Knowing this is not the case will allow you to temper your response by taking action to lower overall overtime without eliminating it. High overtime employees have a symbiotic relationship with a company.  The company provides the overtime hours and the employee gladly provides the needed coverage.  It will serve you well to keep these high overtime employees satisfied so they are there when you need them.

This is continued from Part 1 of Best Practices.

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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.

Making Shift Assignments

It’s human nature to not like change.  There are a lot of reasons for this, among the biggest is the fear of the unknown.  People “know” what’s going on now.  They “know” how things work.  Anything different is unknown.

A schedule change is probably the biggest change your workforce will go through in a generation.  As you might expect, there will be some resistance.  About 5% of your workforce will resist simply because it’s in their nature to be negative.  The other 95% will have varying degrees of concern; almost all of which will be centered around not knowing, with complete clarity, what is going to happen.

What will the new pattern do to their lifestyle?  How much money will they make?  What opportunities, if any, will they lose when the change is made?  Will they still get all of their benefits?  What will happen to vacation?  Can they be on the same, or different, shift as their spouse?

This list goes on an on.  Your goal should be to create transparency.  The more open and informative your process is, the less stress will be put on your workforce.

The one statement that you don’t want to hear is – “That is not fair.”

This is not a statement that comes from change and not “knowing.”  This is a statement that often comes from a complete understanding.  This is not a statement about “change”.  This is a value statement; one which must be closely investigated as soon as it comes up.

Why? Because whoever said it might have a point.

No other issue is more likely to bring up the idea of “fairness” than shift assignments.

If you go from a 3-crew, 5-day schedule to a 4-crew, 24/7 schedule, you will have to redistribute your workforce.  When this happens, people will first become concerned that they will not be assigned to the shift they want.  Once they know their shift assignment, their internal “jury” will take over.  This jury is not concerned with whether or not they got the shift they wanted.  This jury is only concerned about fairness.

For example, take two employees.  Both want to be assigned to the Day shift.  Employee #1 started last week.  Employee #2 started 30 years ago and is the most senior person at the plant.

If both of these are assigned to the Night shift, they will have very different reactions.  Neither wanted to go to nights, but employee #1 understands how being new means he won’t get his first choice.  Meanwhile, employee #2 is going to march straight to the H.R. office and say the dreaded, “This is not fair.”

Without getting into the multitude of ways to assign shifts, I am going to list a few guidelines that, if followed, will greatly reduce the instances of “not fair” resulting from your schedule change project.

  1. Do not realign the entire plant.  There will be those that say, “Every job is being changed so we should all be allowed to bid for every job in the facility regardless of whether or not we are trained for the job.”  This position needs to be confronted with the practical and economic reality of shutting down the facility to potentially retrain 100% of your workforce. It’s not going to happen.
  2. Minimize change.  If someone is on a particular shift, they have the first right to stay on that shift.  A person on an 8-hour day shift should have first shot at staying on day shift, even if that shift is going to 12-hours, regardless of seniority. This is easier than you may think since going to 12’s will generally result in twice as many day shift positions.
  3. A typical policy statement will include language like “We will use seniority among those that are currently in the department followed by seniority among those that are outside the department but already trained to do the work.”
  4. Use seniority whenever possible.  This is a very defensible position (as opposed to making assignments alphabetically or by height or shoe size.)    Seniority, while important, should not override all other considerations such as the current skill set or shift assignment.  Typically, it is used as a tie-breaker.
  5. Do not allow bumping unless a job is eliminated.  Bumping means that I can take your job because I’m senior or more qualified.  In this instance, there is a clear winner and loser.  The loser will then go bump someone else who then bumps someone else.  Don’t do it.
  6. Once the dust has settled, you may find that one shift is particularly weak and needs a senior person from one of the more desirable shifts.  This may result in your taking a senior person and putting them on a shift that they normally wouldn’t be assigned to.  If this happens, take that person aside and explain that you need their help.  Also, tell them what you will be working on to rectify the situation (including how long they should expect to be on the undesirable shift).  You will be pleasantly surprised at how helpful people are willing to be if you don’t simply take their compliance for granted.

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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.