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April 16, 2021 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Ascentis Thought Leadership

How Flexible Scheduling is Transforming Manufacturing

There’s an enduring stereotype of the manufacturing industry as the domain of 9-to-5 workers who file in to punch a clock before the opening whistle and file back out when the workday is over. In actuality, the unique demands and responsibilities of manufacturing have long put this industry at the forefront of innovative scheduling and timekeeping. As more flexible scheduling options become more and more the standard for the modern workforce, manufacturers are finding new ways to use that flexibility to boost productivity, improve employee retention, and attract higher quality job applicants, among other benefits. With more than half of manufacturing workers saying they favor increased flexibility in their workweeks, that tendency seems likely to keep on growing.

What does flexible scheduling look like for manufacturers?

It’s important to remember that flexibility in the manufacturing industry doesn’t necessarily look like it does in other fields where remote work is more feasible and hourly timeframes are less rigid. Flexible scheduling for manufacturers might require some creative thinking, but a few common approaches include:

  • Task-oriented work schedules which put more emphasis on the timely completion of specific projects and tasks than on clocking in and out on a predetermined hourly schedule. This type of scheduling often better reflects the ebb and flow of project and customer orders than a more standard 9-to-5 schedule, although it may require some extra attention to avoid excessive overtime during busy periods.
  • Breaking up traditional 8-hour shifts into smaller segments can help to combat burnout from repetitive tasks and keep employees feeling more engaged with their work. For instance, rather than scheduling workers for a 9-to-5 shift on the assembly line, separating the task into an 8-to-12 and a 1-to-5 shift can help to keep your workforce feeling challenged and stimulated while also avoiding some of the human error that comes with tired or bored workers.
  • Staggered shift work that allows for more break time can likewise keep workers feeling more engaged and help to reduce repetitive stress injuries. By rotating tasks amongst qualified employees, a manufacturer can prevent the work from growing stagnant, and also get more workers trained in a variety of tasks. That kind of diverse skill set makes it easier to fill in gaps and avoid production delays that come with a lack of skilled labor.

Taking a broader view, here are a few other key areas where flexible work scheduling can yield big benefits for manufacturing employers.

Increased productivity and compliance

Flexible scheduling actually makes a lot of sense for manufacturing facilities where performing certain tasks and operating particular equipment requires specialized training and certification. Productivity can take a significant hit if production needs to be delayed because no one with the proper skill set is available for a particular shift. The potential for problems increases even more if an employer tries to plug an untrained or underqualified worker into that role, raising the chances of costly human error and even violations of workplace safety regulations. Scheduling a worker for a role for which they lack proper certification can put an employer at risk of costly OSHA fines.

A flexible scheduling software system helps mitigate those risks by checking upcoming shift schedules against the physical and technical requirements for each role. When skills gaps do emerge, it becomes much easier for management to switch schedules and adjust shifts to ensure that no important duties fall by the wayside. Not only does that keep your facility operating at full productivity, it can also help inform future personnel decisions if consistent gaps or problem areas are identified. If your scheduling software reveals a persistent problem in keeping a certain piece of equipment operating, for instance, it may be cost effective to either hire a new employee with the necessary certification or to train an existing employee to fill that role.

Better employee retention and recruiting

Employee retention is a consistent concern in the manufacturing industry. While many manufacturing roles are highly specialized, skilled positions, most facilities also include a large number of entry-level and less-skilled jobs. Workers in these roles may not need much motivation to leave their roles, especially if they live in a location where multiple comparable manufacturing jobs are available. Studies show that replacing a worker costs employers up to 33% of that employee’s annual salary. With manufacturing industry employee turnover rates hovering around 20%, those are expenses that add up quickly.

Flexible scheduling options can make the difference between retaining an employee and having an empty position to fill. Studies show that, especially for younger workers, the greater work-life balance that comes with nontraditional schedules can be the deciding factor between staying in a role or looking for a different job. This also makes flexible scheduling a potentially powerful recruiting tool. More than half of workers across all age demographics say that flexibility is an important factor in their job decisions, and 62% say they would choose increased flexibility over higher pay if given the choice. That means that a manufacturer who offers more flexible scheduling opportunities may have an edge on one with a more traditional scheduling structure when it comes to recruiting and hiring high quality employees.

We’ve seen ample evidence over the past year that the way America works is changing rapidly. More flexible scheduling options are the way of the future in nearly every industry, and manufacturing is no exception. Taking a forward-thinking approach to scheduling can help keep your organization compliant, competitive, and productive as you move ahead into a new era of workforce management. Learn more about how automated scheduling software from Ascentis can help your business adapt to the new, more flexible future.

With more than 35 years of experience in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, Ascentis thought leaders have become a respected source for insights, tips, and innovations in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space.