What schedule is the best?

July 23rd, 2009 by rguttkuhn Leave a reply »

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 theĀ  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.
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