Archive for July, 2009

What schedule is the best?

July 23rd, 2009

Probably the most asked question in our industry schedule projects is: What is the best schedule out there?

Understandably many managers would like to pick a proven schedule that is sanctioned to be “the best” and simply implement that. Case closed. Next.

In reality the case is not that simple. Our answer to the best-schedule question is: “There is no such thing as a best schedule. The best schedule for your operation is a schedule that works best for your operational requirements and the social preferences of this specific group of employees at your site at this time.”

In other words, a schedule that works fine at the place down the street may not work well in your environment. And even within the same corporation there can be different social preferences from site to site. No two demographics are the same, and different people are at different stages in their life and want different things out of a schedule.

The following is an example of a schedule project that demonstrates this point:

  • We helped a large printing company to select schedules for their 7 plants throughout the US. All plants were on the same 12-hr schedule at the beginning of the project. Most plants were built around the same time. They looked the same, people wore the same uniforms and the plants did essentially the same – printing. Yet it became apparent that important schedule features were quite different in different regions of the US. Some plants were mostly concerned with the equal distribution of quality summer weekends. Other plants worried about the beginning of deer hunting season. Yet others wanted a faster rotation between days and nights. As a result of this, the resulting schedules varied to accommodate these different criteria.

In general we found that the way a schedule is implemented has a big impact on how well it will perform.

  • The “further away” in the organization the schedule originated the more problems can arise; i.e. a “one size fits all” schedule throughout a national corporation is unlikely to consider the different wishes of the local demographics.
  • The more the employees are involved in the schedule selection the  better the resulting schedule will be accepted and perform.
  • As your shiftwork population changes or ages, the important features of a schedule may also change over time.
  • Also consider if all areas of your operation have to be on the same schedule. Is there a valid operational reason for one plant wide schedule? Or is this just a mix of tradition, management convenience, and limitations of the pay-roll system? Allowing independent groups to select their own schedule can greatly improve the acceptance of the schedules and improve labor relations and morale at the same time.

Who works what?

July 22nd, 2009

Every year CIRCADIAN invites managers of shiftwork operations to tell us about their operations in an online survey. The information is used to identify trends and a snapshot of the current state of the shiftwork world.

One of the questions we ask is: “What shift length is worked by the majority of your shiftworkers?”

Below are the answers of about 400 facilities from the last survey:

What shift length is worked at your facility?

What shift length is worked at your facility?

As the chart above shows 8s and 12s are about equally common followed by combinations of 8s and 12s.  We see 10-hr shifts used mostly in operations that do not run 24 hours a day, e.g. food manufacturing and processing which requires a daily shutdown of production and cleaning of the equipment.

Overtime Coverage on 8s vs 12s

July 21st, 2009

A big source of concern for managers and employees when entertaining the idea of 12-hr schedules is the question of how absentee shifts will be covered in both systems.

Coverage on 8-hr schedules normally means that a person from the previos shift has to stay 4 hours beyond their 8-hr shift and a person from the following shift has to come in 4 hours early. Together the two people cover the 8 hours left uncovered by the absence. Both people were already schedule to be at work that day anyway.

The image below shows an example of a typical 8-hr schedule with 4 crews and 4 people per crew. If employee #5 reports sick on Wednesday and Thursday (red), one employee of the day crew has to stay 4 hours later and one employee from the night crew has to come to work 4 hours early (orange).

Coverage on 8-hr schedules

Coverage on 8-hr schedules

On a 12-hr schedule it is not feasible to work half of another shift to cover for an absent co-worker. Instead someone from a crew that was scheduled to be off work that day has to fill the shift.

Coverage on a 12-hr schedule

Coverage on a 12-hr schedule

As shown in the example above only one person has to work the absent shift on Wednesday and Thursday. In the example 3 employees from the day crew keep their day off and the 4 people from the night crew were also unaffected by this change.

So how do companies manage this system?

As with any problem, there are various solutions. What we often see with clients is a voluntary sign-up system where employees can make themselves available to work overtime on their scheduled days off.

Some companies develop call-out schedules which then designate which individual is responsible for vacant shifts on any day. Obviously not all off days are scheduled as cover days – only enough to provide coverage for expected levels of absenteeism.

Both systems work and we have seen clients that utilized both systems in different areas of the same plant. Which system can work in your environment depends a lot on your workforce and the managers in charge of the areas.

Overtime Rate on 8s vs 12s

July 21st, 2009

One question that is often raised and the cause of confusion is the question about overtime on 8s vs 12s.

Will the amount of overtime change when changing from 8s to 12s?

The answer is: It depends on what is driving your overtime on the current schedule.

  1. If your overtime is driven by understaffing your overtime rate will not change. If there is more work to be done than can be accomplished in the scheduled 42 hours a week – any schedule that schedules employees for 42 hours will require the same number of hours worked beyond the scheduled 42. Only adequate staffing will reduce overtime in this situation.
  2. If your overtime is driven by scheduled absenteeism, you overtime rate will not change between 8-hr and 12-hr schedules. Most companies convert vacation entitlement into hours when switching to 12s. Each employee is normally entitled to the same amount of vacation hours as before and the need for coverage remains unchanged. Only staffing for scheduled absenteeism will reduce overtime in this situation.
  3. If your overtime is driven by short term, unscheduled absenteeism, you may see a reduction in absenteeism and overtime after changing from 8s to 12s. One reason behind this effect is the simple fact that on a 12-hr schedule employees typically get 91 more days off per year and chances that an employee feels sick is on a day off are a little higher.

If your absenteeism is driven by a mismatch between the social needs of the employees and the schedule pattern, a schedule pattern that involved the employees in the selection can result in a reduction in absenteeism and therefore overtime.

8s vs 12s – Some basic math

July 21st, 2009

On an 8-hr schedule that is designed to cover the 168 hours of the week, one would typically need 4 people per position – or 4 crews for the entire operation. Each person/crew works an average of 42 hours a week (168 hours / 4 people). This average is achieved by working 40 hours a week 3/4 of the time and 48 hours per week 1/4 of the time.

8-hr schedule

8-hr schedule

The schedule in the graph above shows a typical 8-hr schedule. On any given weekday 3 out of 4 people/crews are scheduled to work. Each person/crew has 7 days off per 28-day cycle.
During the entire year, each crew is scheduled to work 273 days/shifts for a total of 2184 hours. Each crew is schedule to be off work for 91 days per year.

On a 12-hr schedule that is designed to cover the same 168 hours of the week, one also typically needs 4 people/crews. Each person/crew is still scheduled to work an average of 42 hours per week (168 hours / 4 people). On a 12-hr schedule this is achieved by working 36 hours a week 1/2 of the time, and 48 hours per week the other 1/2 of the time.

12-hr schedule

12-hr schedule

The schedule in the graph above shows an example for a 12-hr schedule. On any given weekday 2 out of 4 people/crews are scheduled to work. Each person/crew has 14 days off per 28-day cycle.
During the entire year, each crew is scheduled to work 182 days/shifts for a total of 2184 hours. Each crew is scheduled to be off work for 182 days per year.
For both schedules, Sunday 7 AM (start of day shift) was used as start of the pay week.