If your company is growing, your sales and profits are probably up, and your production facilities are being stretched. We often see plant managers straining to keep up with the challenges of growth while simultaneously trying to keep costs from spiraling out of control. They often feel that they are getting orders that needed to be filled yesterday using equipment that does not yet exist. The cry from the top is: “Produce more with what you have!”
How can you produce more with what you have? If new equipment is required, how can you maximize your return on your investment? How do you accommodate the growth that occurs in spurts without over-committing to new acquisitions? Let’s take these one at a time.
Produce More with What You Have
Use shift schedules that increase your weekly operating hours. A typical progression goes something like this:
- Day shift on weekdays only (40 hours/week)
- Day shift on weekdays plus weekend overtime (48-56 hours/week)
- Day and evening shift (80 hours/week)
- Day and evening shift plus weekend overtime (88-112 hours/week)
- 24 hours a day on weekdays (120 hours/week)
- 24 hours a day plus weekend overtime (128-168 hours/week)
- 24 hours a day, seven days a week (168 hours/week)
- 24 hours a day, seven days a week plus holidays (168 hours/week)
Make sure that every day captures as much production time as possible.
If you are 10% inefficient on Monday, you will be 10% efficient on every day that you grow into. Look for ways to minimize downtime due to breaks or shift changes, excessive shift overlap, slowdowns due to unexpected absenteeism, missing employee skill sets, and maintenance conflicts.
Maximize Your Return on New Equipment
- Run new equipment as many hours as customer demand will allow.
If you need 168 hours of production per week out of a certain type of equipment, you could buy two of them and run them each for 84 hours a week. Or, you could buy one piece of equipment and run it 168 hours a week. Of course, certain considerations such as maintenance and logistical support will play into this decision.
- Never let the lack of employee skills prevent you from operating.
This does not mean you should operate with unskilled workers. It does mean that you should anticipate the need for certain skills. This seems elementary, but all too often, it is the lack of depth on the “bench” that catches companies off guard. Unexpected absences can suddenly result in an expensive investment sitting idle while you rush to train a replacement.
- Use overtime as a strategic pool of trained employees.
Overtime is a major asset when it comes to growth. The cost of overtime is generally comparable to the cost of straight time (including benefits and overhead). It allows you to instantly grow your workforce by 10 to 20 percent — even more for short periods of time.
- Temporary employees can augment their workforce.
While they are often untrained, a temporary workforce can free up your skilled labor for higher-level tasks. Should production demands take a short step backward, it is relatively easy to release temporary help.
- Cross-training can help in facilities with more than one department or product line.
While growth may be uniform across the board for all of your products, it is more likely that some departments will be more stretched than others. Cross-training allows you to spread the effort to grow across the entire organization.
- Have schedules ready to go as the need for weekly coverage increases.
Change schedules proactively. If you are currently operating 5 days a week and may need to go to 6 days or even 7 days a week, work with your employees to find the best schedules for these situations. Then, when it is time for a change, everyone will understand their role in meeting the challenges.
Coping with Irregular Growth
This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of growth. You try to respond to expected growth, and then everything changes. You are then caught with too little or too much capacity.
Shiftwork Solutions can help you find a shiftwork strategy that will allow you to manage your current growth needs and plan for future needs.
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