Over my twenty years of designing and implementing shift schedules, I have stopped a number of companies from going to 7-day operations just as often as I have recommended 7x24 operations. My number one tip is, “Don't just put in 7-day schedules in every department.” Just because employees are working every weekend and no matter how many hours you schedule it doesn’t seem like the facility can keep, doesn’t mean it’s time to schedule a 24x7 operation.
A food manufacturer struggling to meet customer orders and working overtime to cover Saturday and Sunday thought the answer was to move the entire facility to 24x7 operation. They hired 35% more staff but experienced less than a 10% increase in demand. It was a huge mistake and unfortunately they called only after they made that mistake. Now, due to the incredibly employee friendly schedules and the disruption another change would make, they are having a harder time “gearing down.”
Another manufacturer called us in before making the jump to 24x7 operation. They were working over 20% overtime plant wide and employees were complaining about working too many weekends. A detailed analysis of their current schedule and production strategy revealed that they were underutilizing all of their equipment. On average, equipment that was running “continuously” up to 6 and even 7 days per week was losing 15 to 20 hours a week of capacity. Inefficient start-ups and shutdowns, poor product changeovers, stops during breaks and lunches, overscheduled sanitation and maintenance periods, and even shift changeovers were contributing to the loss of capacity.
By designing the right schedule strategies Monday through Friday, I was able to show the managers and supervisors how to recover most of this lost capacity. Some personnel needed to be added and supervisors had to be held accountable for their use of labor, but in the end there were over $5 million in labor savings. And guess what! The facility didn’t need to run 24x7. It could get all its work done within a 5 day work week with only a few areas needing to work overtime. Overall there was a significant reduction in overtime and no ones lives were disrupted. It doesn’t mean I didn’t design a 24x7 solution for them. I did, but they put it on the shelf until they really need it.
If you are considering a 6-day or 7-day operation, first make sure you are truly getting 24 hours of operating time Monday through Friday. Maybe you really need an efficient 4-day-a-week operation. In my business I say "Fix Mondays First" before you expand to the weekend!
The discrepancy between potential (available) and actual operating hours is related by many variables, including scheduling of breaks, lunches, shift changes, maintenance, absenteeism, training, weekend start-up and shutdowns, and skill balance. And of course scheduled equipment also breaks down on its own. It is beneficial analyze in detail each variable that causes downtime so you will know what to fix. Establishing a better schedule will normally cost next to nothing – implementing a schedule you don’t need can cost you millions!