Scheduling Challenges for Manufacturing (And Our Top 3 Solutions)

June 10, 2021 - minute read

Manufacturers have one goal: produce steadily at a reasonable cost… but production lines and supply chains have limitations, and so do the people that make up your workforce. Employee schedules serve as the bridge between operational goals and the people helping to accomplish them. Without dependable scheduling, you risk over- or under- staffing your various facilities and adding to the myriad of challenges already faced by your industry.

Over the past year, scheduling has become the key to reducing labor costs, improving employee satisfaction, and enabling more streamlined operations. For those of you still recovering from the pandemic, it will be the key to laying the groundwork for your organization to thrive in the days ahead. Let’s discuss some of the unique scheduling challenges of manufacturers, and how flexible software could be your ideal solution.

Scheduling Challenges in the Manufacturing Industry

In order to overcome the restrictions within your industry, it’s important to evaluate whether or not outdated workforce management practices are holding you back. Of all the problems that affect employee scheduling, manual processes are often the true culprit of major setbacks for manufacturers and their internal supply chains.

Relying on manual scheduling methods (i.e. spreadsheets or shift boards) can introduce unintended oversights that keep production lines from functioning successfully and risk violating compliance regulations and company policies.

The primary scheduling mistakes that arise for manufacturers, include:

  • Under- or over- staffing areas of your facility with the incorrect number of employees.
  • Scheduling an employee without the required credentials for a specific role.
  • Scheduling a worker for multiple shifts without proper breaks.
  • Overworking employees with overtime (which significantly increases risk of burnout, turnover, and liability claims).
  • Allowing new managers to violate important scheduling regulations without realizing it.
  • Changing labor needs based on unpredictable demand shifts.

Now, let’s discuss the top three strategies for managing beyond them.

Top 3 Scheduling Solutions

If your scheduling practices aren’t strong enough to keep up with your operation, it’s not too late to do something about it. Here are three solutions for manufacturers concerned about their scheduling struggles.

Solution #1 Predicting Labor Needs

Understaffing or overstaffing can negatively impact customer commitment and your operation’s bottom line. That’s why predicting exactly how many employees and specialized skills or qualifications will be needed for each department is so important.

Regardless of the types of goods your facility produces, fluctuations in absenteeism, turnover and orders for your overall business all make mid-range labor planning essential for aligning your labor needs with the production goals of the future.

Adopting tools that can provide real-time insight into your workforce (skills, employee pay rates, schedules, and availability) and operational trends can provide you with the predictive indicators you need to support production on all fronts—especially when they show a need to hire more workers or adjust schedules.

Solution #2 Responsive Scheduling

Sometimes planning ahead just isn’t enough, and you need to make last-minute adjustments to get an order filled. Whether you have too many no-shows or you realize you didn’t anticipate the correct number of employees, you need solid methods for carrying out last-minute changes.

Having live insight into your time and attendance data of your workers can help you catch scheduling mistakes before they have a chance occur. Regardless of the size of your operation, real-time visibility into your employees’ schedules, as well as their qualifications, overtime status, and availability, will make it much easier to respond effectively to your operational needs.

Flex pools are another useful strategy for dealing with scheduling hurdles. When unplanned events impact production and demand, they give you access to the employees who can adapt quickly to unforeseen changes. These groups vary by plant and facility, but the defining trait of flex pool employees is their versatility and the flexibility of their work schedules.

Solution #3 Self-Serve Scheduling

Giving employees the ability to influence their own schedules might seem counter-intuitive to preventing scheduling mishaps at first… but letting workers choose their own shifts or allowing options like shift bidding and swapping are great strategies for filling production gaps with qualified, eligible, and willing workers.

Employee-centered scheduling strategies take a more holistic view of managing labor resources, but they have the added benefit of improving employee morale, productivity, and overtime costs as well. Allowing workers to communicate their availability or desired schedule will lower absenteeism and help keep skilled employees longer. It can also help with last-minute changes by nurturing transparency. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win for scheduling and everyone involved.

Scheduling Solutions for Manufacturing

Due to the complexities of overseeing manufacturing plants, scheduling employees is often left to manual processes. Unfortunately, less than half of all employers currently use scheduling software, which can be a significant disadvantage for your operation.

EPAY Systems’ advanced workforce management solution improves manufacturers’ efforts to manage employees and meet market demands. We pride ourselves on the power of our analytics capabilities, which has become an industry leader for the hourly workforce. With our optimized scheduling platform, you can:

  • Make it easy for managers to create and edit schedules, while giving workers online 24/7 access to schedules.
  • Allow managers to calculate actual labor costs for each proposed schedule.
  • Allow workers to bid on open shifts and swap schedules.
  • Generate reports that helps managers improve their scheduling practices.

EPAY scheduling software was designed for the hourly workforce that is hard to track and manage. Want to see us in action? Request a free, personalized demo today!

Filed Under: Manufacturing Scheduling