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January 28, 2021 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Ascentis

Why Effective Labor Scheduling is Critical in Manufacturing

Anyone who has spent time on the scheduling side of a manufacturing workplace can tell you there is a lot more to the industry than just expecting workers to clock in and out for a nine-to-five shift. Managing a manufacturing schedule efficiently and effectively requires foresight, adaptability, and close attention to the skills and training required to complete each project. Effective schedule management impacts every aspect of your business, from reducing costs to improving productivity to increasing employee retention. Let’s look at a few key considerations for more effective labor scheduling in manufacturing.

Ensuring proper shift coverage

Manufacturing schedules are far from one-size-fits-all. Most facilities have a wide range of tasks going on at any given time, many of which require specific skills or training. Without an organized, easily manageable scheduling system, keeping all of those roles filled with qualified employees becomes all the more difficult. For example, if a worker who is trained to operate a specific piece of equipment calls in sick or leaves their role, having someone on hand with the same qualifications is essential for avoiding a costly production delay. Accurate, easily accessible records can even inform hiring decisions by exposing areas where those kinds of skills gaps exist. When those gaps are identified, employers can put their learning management systems to use to upskill or reskill existing staff, or to hire skilled laborers before issues arise.

Along similar hiring lines, it is rare for a modern manufacturing facility to maintain a constant pace of production throughout the year. As production ebbs and flows, employers need to be able to adjust their workforces accordingly. Automated scheduling software helps project the need for more or fewer workers as order sizes change, materials become available, and demand fluctuates. This type of foresight can be useful in setting labor goals and making decisions about whether to recruit new full-time hires or bring in contingent labor or contract employees. This data can also be hugely beneficial in helping your HR team avoid the cost overruns that come from overscheduling as well as the production slowdowns and overtime payouts that come with underscheduling.

Reducing turnover and empowering employees

The manufacturing industry has one of the highest rates of turnover in the American workforce, partly because the nature of the work is often physically demanding and repetitive. An active approach to scheduling can help improve employee retention rates by ensuring that workers are taking scheduled breaks and rotating duties when possible to help combat burnout. Scheduling software can also be used in collaboration with your learning management system to get employees trained in a wider variety of skills. By helping your workers develop more diverse skill sets, you can not only increase their engagement, but also build a more interchangeable workforce that helps you avoid scheduling gaps in future.

A strong labor scheduling system can further empower your workforce with employee self-service options. Many manufacturers are moving toward software systems that include a mobile app or dashboard that gives employees the opportunity to make schedule changes, swap shifts, submit time-off requests, and other day-to-day scheduling tasks. By putting those functions directly in the hands of your workers, you can not only empower your employees but also free up time that managers would otherwise spend making schedule adjustments and processing requests. Expanding employee self-service is a simple and cost-effective way to increase productivity while also reducing turnover, both of which ultimately benefit your bottom line.

Staying safe and compliant

The modern workforce is more conscious of health and safety concerns than ever before. The pandemic of 2020 has impacted every aspect of the manufacturing industry, including scheduling practices. Many manufacturers responded to these new workplace health concerns with measures such as staggering scheduling, adding extra shifts, or creating “pods” of workers to limit social contact in the work environment. Managing all of these new measures efficiently requires a reliable automated scheduling process. The potential costs of a workplace outbreak and the possibility of subsequent lawsuits or fines make this too important an area to leave open to human error.

Beyond physical safety, automated labor scheduling solutions also protect manufacturers against the risks of noncompliance with federal, state, and local regulations. The most obvious example is the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and its requirements around overtime pay and misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also requires consideration, with its guidelines for granting time off for certain employees. Depending on your business’s physical location, there are also likely to be state and local laws related to minimum wages, overtime, paid time off, and more. A manual or semi-manual scheduling system is unlikely to be robust enough to manage all of those compliance concerns, and puts a manufacturer at risk of substantial fines, sanctions, and reputational damage.

The fact is that managing scheduling for an organization as complex and wide-reaching as most manufacturing facilities is too complicated to handle without automated tools. The risks to your business’s bottom line and employee satisfaction levels are simply too great to leave to chance. Find out more about the ways Ascentis can revitalize your scheduling practices and build a safer, more productive, more profitable workplace.