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Volume 6   Issue 7                August  2005


The Glass is Cleaner on the Other Shift
by Mike Burk

Wolfgang Mieder describes “the grass is always greener” as one of the most commonly-used proverbs. He writes, “This should not be surprising since it expresses the only too human idea of discontent, envy and jealousy.” 

Shifty Envy
There is one common form of discontent that is heard from the production staff at almost every multi-shift insulating glass production facility. The other shift has a better life. The other shift completes the easiest production schedules, produces fewer units and, of course, the work is of much lower quality. The strange thing is that if you stick around for the next shift, the associates will say the same thing about the people that just went home.

What part of your staffing and supervision, scheduling or equipment could cause these feelings? In most cases a turn on the opposing shift would correct this view. But sometimes the associates are correct. There is a shift that doesn’t compare in meeting production quantity or quality requirements. 

There is no “best practice” for planning and producing multi-shift production that would automatically meet the needs of all insulating glass manufacturers. Each manufacturer has different production demands, different layouts, different equipment and different people.

How can you best combine these different resources to maintain the most efficient production?

Staffing and Supervision. Review the staff and supervisors in your insulating glass department. Do you have the appropriate number of associates on each shift or is it possible that your day shift is overstaffed? Have the members of each shift been equally trained in equipment operation and quality requirements? Do the shifts have the required maintenance support? Analyze the unit production per person, per hour and look for waste. In order to compensate for product mix, compare the amount of finished insulating glass in square feet that is produced each shift.

Scheduling and Order Planning. Take the time to review which orders are completed on which shift. Large units often reduce the production rate and are moved to an “off” shift where they appear to have less of an impact. In reality, these units may have a more serious impact since off shifts sometimes have fewer people, fewer lines in operation and minimal technical support than day shifts. Many times high quantity batches are produced during day shifts where interruptions with remakes or rush orders are more prevalent. Off shifts may be a better time to run large batches. Who decides? These decisions can make a major difference in overall production numbers. 

Equipment. Evaluate the equipment utilized during each shift. Consider whether the equipment is used to supply the same shift or is producing work in process for the next shift. If it is manufacturing components for the upcoming shifts, ask yourself if your staff is producing the products that are truly needed, or are they producing the components that are easier or faster to manufacture? How much equipment is idle during the alternate shifts due to a lack of personnel?

A Thorough Evaluation
Take a step back and look at the entire production day. Evaluate available machinery software packages that can level load the production schedule through all the shifts.

Attempt to produce and maintain a continuous supply of components to reduce the work in process. If possible, intersect the shifts to allow for communication between the associates and supervisors. This overlap will allow production to continue as associates discuss scheduling, component issues and machinery operation.

Mieder explains that the proverb, “the grass is always greener,” should not just be considered an “overemphasis of dissatisfaction” but “part of human existence that keeps people going.” Take an opportunity to get your shifts going together as one team. 

Mike Burk serves as training manager for GED Integrated Solutions in Twinsburg, Ohio. 

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