Since 1946, Gopher Resource has made proactive and significant investments in green jobs, safety, environmental advancements, and emerging technologies at its Eagan, MN facility. This plant has the capacity to recycle over 14 million automotive batteries annually and processes 18-20 tons of lead daily. With strict adherence to environmental and safety regulations, battery components are separated, dried, melted and cast into pellets that can be shipped to manufacturers. Battery acid is recovered and neutralized for safe disposal at this sustainable and innovative site.
"We are already seeing the benefits of our schedule change which has substantially improved our recruitment efforts as well as our employee retention."
Tim Kerntz, Director of Human Resources
INDUSTRY: Recycling of batteries and production of repurposed lead, alloys and polypropylene
EMPLOYEE UNION: Teamsters Local 120
EAGAN, MINNESOTA FACILITY: approximately 160 employees
CAPACITY: recycles 50,000 automotive batteries per day
PRODUCTION: 18 - 20 tons of lead per day
RMPC, Furnace, Refining and other support groups were utilizing fixed shift, fixed day schedules
to staff operator positions, meaning that once assigned, employees always had the same days off until they were senior enough to pick a more favorable shift. The majority of employees had no scheduled weekend days off and this was contributing to high absenteeism and turnover. Gopher engaged Coleman Consulting Group to evaluate the deployment of capital and personnel in the RMPC department specifically.
The goals of the project were to implement a scheduling solution that reduced absenteeism, maximized days/time off, improved retention, created a better relationship with supervisors and employees, and balanced product flow and proper staffing across all departments. Productivity losses at Eagan were estimated to be at least 2.25% of total lead production. Aside from RMPC schedules, three other departmental schedules used by production staff, supervisors and managers were analyzed to uncover wasted labor dollars. The unbalanced nature of the current schedules meant that many days were overstaffed. Some overstaffing was used to cover absences and vacations, much was lost. Our team developed a number of options that could recover this labor cost while at the same time meeting the desires of the workforce to achieve a better work-life balance.
Union leadership and Gopher Resource management teams ratified an agreement to implement 12-hour shifts for 24/7 positions effective January 2022. Among other benefits, employees will see a pay increase, night shift differentials, and an additional 80 days off per year compared to a traditional 8-hour schedule. By keeping the project in front of the union membership and trusting the survey results, CCG was able to rectify workforce to workload inconsistencies and implemented a change that will result in a win for Gopher employees.
"I can’t say enough good things about our experience with Coleman Consulting. (They were) instrumental in leading our effort to move our operations department work force from 8 hour shifts to 12 hour shifts. I was impressed with the attention to detail, neutral approach/style, and commitment which ultimately helped our employees to recognize the value of an alternative work schedule."
Tim Kerntz, Director of Human Resources
With current turnover at 25%, the right schedule has the potential to cut turnover in half, resulting in savings of $348,000 conservatively speaking. Implementing a schedule that allows for sufficient rest and time off encourages people to come to work, and the right schedule at Gopher Resource had the potential to save about $180,000 in reduced absenteeism alone.
Proctored survey results favored a change, and with employee buy-in, Coleman Consulting Group recommended moving forward with the Union to implement new schedules to operate RMPC more consistently 7 days a week. The majority of RMPC leads and maintenance will be moving to 10-hour schedules on a 7-week rotation. Initially, a crew will be assigned to 8-hour schedules Monday-Friday, and long term, there will be a lead, WWT operator, and a desulfurization operator on a 4-crew system aligned with supervisors. CCG proposed a 4-crew solution, 8-week cycle of 4 days on/4 off for all areas and all positions that operate 168 hours per week(24x7). In addition to the rotation, CCG developed the correct staffing and policy issues to ensure that the final schedule was a success. Our experience shows this will help achieve a more cohesive team culture, optimize labor to recoup losses and allow for relief coverage, improve work-life balance for the majority of employees, and provide predictable schedules that will attract and retain future hires.