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Toss the Schedule Spreadsheet, Watch Your Shop Floor Excel

by Brad Johnson on April 11, 2018
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Industrial plant at nightYour top performer on a critical workstation just called in sick. If you can’t get the shift covered you won’t complete an order for your important new client, and you’re barely keeping up as it is. Which of your employees is available on short notice AND trained on the equipment?

This scenario might make you want to call in sick yourself! Scheduling has so many variables to track. Even without last-minute call-offs or shift swaps, it’s hard to put together a schedule that works for your production and your employees. That’s why it’s time to consider automated scheduling.

Manual scheduling is risky!

Puzzling together the moving parts of a schedule diverts time from other tasks. And any errors you make waste even more time as you fix them. If you’re relying on simple spreadsheets and your memory to create employee schedules, you could be risking:

  • Money spent on scheduling that could go to other duties
  • Time correcting errors in reporting
  • Opportunities for employees to access the schedule offsite via smartphone or the web, which means more time to request shift change or pick up extra shifts
  • Reduced production time due to employee fatigue, attrition or even injury resulting from overscheduling
  • Missed deadlines due to over- or under-estimating production needs
  • Downtime due to inaccurate (or inadequate) scheduled equipment maintenance

No one intends to waste time or money. But if you can’t keep all of the pieces of the puzzle in sync, it’s easy to see how production takes a hit. “The reality is the customer relationship suffers when manufacturers can’t deliver on time. When companies promise a delivery, and that promise is broken, customers start to doubt future orders. This is an especially harsh reality now that customers have more options than ever before with whom to work,” says Danna Nelson in Food Manufacturing.

Changed your production model? Change your schedules too.

Many shops today manufacture on-demand or custom orders. Gone are the days of steady production and predictable workflow toward a static quota. Nowadays you only order as much raw material as you need for the job at hand, you don’t keep a quantity of your finished product in stock and when an order is due you need to ramp up production quickly.

This “just in time” approach is efficient but  according to Industry Week, “employees are being asked to respond to demand needs since high inventory levels are no longer in place to fulfill that demand. To do this effectively, they need schedules that can flex based on the needs of the business.”


Automated scheduling: speed, power and data to analyze

Back at the whiteboard in the break room, you’re still pondering the schedule grid. You have lists of employees by seniority and certification and notes about upcoming vacations and overtime restrictions. The big deadline is looming, and the pieces keep shifting. You fear your eyes are turning into Venn diagrams.

Scott Jessup says in Manufacturing Business Technology “many manufacturers, especially small-to-medium-businesses (SMBs), attempt to do production planning and scheduling with legacy systems or data manipulation tools poorly equipped for the task. For example, Excel is good for exporting reports and providing some data analytics, but it makes a poor production planning engine.”

Powerful online scheduling tools like TimeSimplicity and TimeWorksPlus help you solve the scheduling puzzle with:

  • Drag-and-drop schedule creation
  • Customizable job codes for scheduling the team members with required certifications
  • System automation to find eligible staff members to cover open shifts
  • Customized system notifications that reduce over-staffing and unplanned overtime
  • Complete mobile coordination for team members and management
  • Employee self service that empowers staff to manage their time cards, post shift requests, and monitor PTO accruals
  • Automatic creation of audit-ready records

“A scheduling tool can help optimize schedules by looking at certain types of data, then creating a schedule that is based on the peaks and valleys of the production line as well as the skills needed to staff that line,” says Jenine Bogrand in Quality Magazine. It can also factor in things like the time between an employee’s shifts to avoid excessive fatigue, and time at the beginning and end of shifts for prep, clean up and changing into or out of protective gear.

Another benefit of your automated scheduling program is the data it tracks. Analyze that data to identify inefficiencies and waste.  In Manufacturing Business Technology, Bogrand points to a case in which scheduling data showed “that one plant … had significant overtime due to only the most senior workers being trained in the areas needing overtime. By cross-training or at times hiring, the overtime spend could be significantly reduced.” Track more variables with automation, and trends emerge sooner.

Are you still struggling to create schedules that really work for your manufacturing business? Pencil in some time to check out Horizon Payroll Solutions’ automated scheduling tools. Contact us any time with questions!

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