Case Study - Manufacturing

November 29, 2018

I am currently working at a manufacturing site.  I thought it might be interesting to post a bit about it now even though the outcome is still in question.

Here is the situtation:

  1. The facility is a machine shop with about 150 employees.
  2. There are two crews that each work about 60 hours a week.
  3. The only unused time during the week is half of Saturday and all of Sunday.
  4. It takes 3 years to train an employee.
  5. Local demand for workers of this skill set is extremely high.  They can leave and get a new job elsewhere within hours.
  6. The company has "floating" bottlenecks.  From day to day and even shift to shift, they can be over or understaffed in any given area.
  7. Outside influencers play a big part of bottlenecks.  Jobs that have portions outsourced cannot be completed until the outside vendor completes their work.  These outside sources range from shops across the street to facilities overseas.
  8. The employees like their current schedule and they like the current high levels of overtime.
  9. The company has a hard time recruiting good employees
  10. The company could fill the plant to 24/7 capacity if they had the people they needed and the outside vendor support to go along with it.

That's quite a list.

The questions are:

  1. How do you staff to a moving target?  The workload is unpredictable.
  2. How do you add more crews to a facility that is already staffed except for half of Saturday and all of Sunday?
  3. How do you change schedules with a workforce that doesn't want to change and can easily find work elsewhere if they choose?

The strategy so far...

It's important to recognize that the workforce has choices.  If they are unhappy, they will move along to greener pastures.  At the same time, the company has to respond to business conditions.  If there is a chance to improve service to their customers, they have to take advantage of that.

If you don't take care of your customers...someone else will.

My plan is to take the current 2 crews and spread them across a 24/7, 4-crew schedule.  This means that every shift will be only 50% staffed.  We don't know where the work is so spreading out the workforce ensures someone will be there if needed but not too many if not needed.  Since the employees like a lot of overtime, they can come in on their days off to get the additional hours they want.  On their current schedule, the workforce gets about 75 days off a year.  On the 24/7 schedule, they will get 182 days off a year.  This means they can come in on a lot of days off to get the overtime they are used to while still getting more days off than they are now.

Also, since we have a 4-crew schedule in place, we can hire future employees into this schedule.  If we had not changed schedules, there would be no place to add additional employees unless we told them "Your schedule will start at noon on Saturday and end at 6:00 am on Monday."  

As the workforce gets used to their new schedule, we expect their desire for overtime to wane.  It's not mandatory for this to happen but we should plan for it.  Also, as we hire more employees, it will take time for them to become productive and able to fill in for the overtime that was originally gobbled up by the old timers.

Eventually, we expect to staff up to about 80% to 90% capacity, filling in the remainder with overtime that the workforce wants to work.

  • The workforce kept their overtime.
  • The workforce went to a schedule that gave them more days off.
  • The company is covering 24/7 with a schedule that attracts new employees.

I'll post later on how this all turned out.




Tags:Manufactruingovertimechange managementWork life balance24/7