Considerations for Multiple Schedules
December 10, 2009
Often, when we start on a project with a company, the question will be asked, "Can we put in more than one schedule?" The intent is to discern if such a thing is actually possible or too complicated to consider.
The answer is almost always, "Yes, in fact you already have multiple schedules being worked at this site."
It would be a rare find indeed if a company was operating with its entire workforce on a single schedule. It would be even rarer if such a singular scheduling scenario was optimal from an efficiency perspective.
Consider your basic operation where there is a maintenance crew and a production crew. Quite often, these two disparate operations are on the same schedule in spite of the fact that one cannot do its job while the other is working. You can't run a line that is taken apart for maintenance and you can fix a conveyor belt that is moving.
So different schedules are not only possible, but often necessary for the efficient operation of the facility.
Suppose that you have two different schedules but they are both in maintenance or both in production. It that feasible?
Certainly. If you have, for example, three identical production lines and you can only meet production demands if one of the lines is running 24/7, then it make sense to have one line run 24/7 while the others remain on a 5-day schedule.
While this is efficient, it can lead to complications when it comes to issues like overtime, absentee coverage and seniority. For example, if a 12-hour, 7-day schedule and an 8-hour, 5-day schedule both start at the same time and there is an absence on the 12-hour schedule, what do you do? Do you cover it by calling in a 12-hour person on their day off? Do you hold over an 8-hour person that is expecting to go home? If both options are available, who chooses which option will be used? Suppose there is a 12-hour person at home that wants to come in for the overtime but there is a more senior 8-hour person that wants to hold over; does seniority rule or does the person on the schedule get priority?
Suppose a person on a 12-hour schedule wants to take 2 weeks of vacation and an 8-hour person steps into the 12-hour schedule to fill the position, are there any policies that will be impacted? This seems like a simple issue until you understand that often pay and work policies for an 8-hour schedule do not work well for a 12-hour schedule.
The list of considerations goes on and on. Suppose there is a layoff on one product line on one schedule but not on another product line on a different schedule? If you lay off by seniority and a senior person stays but has to change lines and schedules and then wants to take vacation, will your policies work?
If you have one supervisor covering two lines and the lines are on different schedules, what schedule will the supervisor work? The more time he spends one one schedule with one crew, the less time he will spend with the crew on the different schedule.
Finally, different schedules have different levels of attraction. Are you willing to allow skilled employees to migrate to the more attractive schedule?
Multiple schedules not only work, they are often more beneficial to the company. However, be prepared for the complications that can arise from such a shift work structure.