Founded in 1947 in Dallas, Dal-Tile is the largest manufacturer and marketer of ceramic tile, natural stone and countertop products used in residential and commercial spaces across North America. A subsidiary of global flooring manufacturer Mohawk Industries, Dal-Tile currently operates 13 manufacturing facilities in North America, with more than 300 Sales Service Centers (SSCs), Design Galleries, Design Studios and Countertop/Stone Centers throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
When Dal-Tile broke ground on its greenfield manufacturing plant in Dickson, Tennessee, the management team wanted the new factory’s operations to be exceptional from the start. Based on experiences with employee schedules at their existing manufacturing facilities, they knew they needed to implement a solution that would allow them to quickly train, ramp up production and retain a strong workforce that would consistently produce high-quality products. They were looking for a schedule that would maximize skill balance, extend the exposure of the crews to all supervisors, and permit the facility to effectively cross-train personnel during the first 18 months of operations.
INDUSTRY: Ceramic Tile Manufacturer
WORLDWIDE EMPLOYEES: More than 9,300
DICKSON, TENNESSEE FACILITY: Approximately 200 employees
WORLDWIDE SALES: More than $2 Billion
The schedule design process relies on carefully blending Business Needs, Employee Desires, and Health & Safety requirements. The biggest challenge in designing the right schedule for this facility — as with any new facility — is trying to determine what schedule employees that have not yet been hired might want to work. The team could easily rely on Dal-Tile’s other production facilities to grasp the business needs and assess the health and safety concerns that would be faced by new employees, but a new facility with a new workforce warranted more research. Even the initial management team was moved to the area to start the facility, and they were unfamiliar with the surrounding area and the customary schedule practices in the region.
Coleman Consulting Group would have to draw on its vast database of schedules and scheduling practices, as well as cooperatively survey surrounding businesses to draw some conclusions about the specific employee desires in the area. This approach carried some risk due to the fact that survey data often leads you to the average response, and not every person is average. Additionally, when hiring new employees for a new facility, the population of employees hired is not likely to reflect the productivity averages of seasoned and tenured employees.
If this was not already challenging enough, the schedule plan had to account for growth from early training all the way to a full seven-day, around the clock production over a 12-month time period. That meant paying close attention to hiring, training and the inevitable attrition of new hires that ultimately decided the work was not for them.
The long-term solution for the facility was a schedule based off of a 12-hour shift length that allowed employees to be off every other weekend and rotated from days to nights so that everyone experienced the same work/life benefits. This solution allowed Dal-Tile to manage skill balance effectively and provided some five-day breaks for employees to enjoy time away from work without using vacation time. This solution was fully implemented in 2016 with a number of ramp-up schedule solutions utilizing both 8-hour and 12-hour shift lengths that took the facility from start-up in the summer of 2015 to continuous seven-day operations. The management team even employed shift rotations for both the hourly employees and managers during both the training and the ramp-up phases to acclimate everyone to all aspects of the final solution.
A number of policies were implemented so that the final solution maximized health and safety and addressed various financial considerations. Some of these policies included making the night shift slightly shorter than the day shift to reduce the impact on night shift workers, designing the workweek to balance week-to-week pay for all employees, and counter-rotating the supervisors to allow each team to be exposed to each style of supervision.
“When Coleman Consulting Group started this process in 2014, they exposed me to so many ideas and schedule concepts that I didn’t know existed. Our entire team here at Dickson have benefitted tremendously from the work we did with Coleman.”
Brent Shoemaker, Dal-Tile Director of Manufacturing
A recent change in demand at Dal-Tile necessitated a short-term move to 8-hour shifts Monday through Friday at this facility. Given the choice of remaining on the Monday -Friday schedule or moving back to a seven-day operation on a 12-hour schedule, more than 90 percent of hourly team members preferred to go back to the seven-day schedule. More days off, better work/life balance and feeling more rested were just some of the reasons the employees at Dal-Tile gave for going back to the 12-hour schedule.
In the fall of 2018, the Dickson facility enthusiastically shifted back to seven-day production. Based on some additional feedback from the hourly team members, the old schedule was slightly modified to improve further what was already considered an excellent schedule. Going back to seven-day production meant reduced cost and higher margins for Dal-Tile, and happier employees who feel their schedules fit into a balanced lifestyle.