Don't Let Summer Slow You Down
Posted by Michael S. on May 15, 2017 in Manufacturer Focus

As summer approaches, many of your employees will plan on taking time off. They may want to spend time relaxing, traveling, or seeing family and friends. As an employer, you want to accommodate their vacation requests, but you also understand that customers expect you to deliver products as promised.


This creates a dilemma. You are down capacity hours as your staff is taking time off, so what can you do? Easy—estimate your demand.


Utilize a demand planning process. Plug in your current and projected requests and available hours so you can quickly see the hours needed versus hours available.


Now, what do you do? Follow your company policy that manages how employees can request time off and how many employees can be off at one time. If you find that the hours needed exceed the hours available, you’ll need to find ways to fill the needed hours.


One solution may be to contact a temporary staffing agency and work with them to supply the needed resources.


You could also:

  • Ask your employees if they have children who are of legal working age and want to make some money working during the summer.
  • Post temporary summer jobs at technical colleges and universities.
  • Offer internships to students.
  • Recruit former employees or retirees to work during the summer.
  • Develop creative and flexible schedules.
  • Ask your employees if they know anyone who is looking for work.


In addition to adjusting your staffing capacity, you could:

  • Schedule overtime.
  • Add additional shifts.
  • Increase 8-hour shifts to 10 or 12 hours.
  • Add a weekend shift.
  • Subcontract some of the work.
  • Renegotiate delivery and quantities with your customers.


Some suggestions take more time to plan and implement than others.


My advice is to look into and pursue a variety of options. If you just focus on recruiting from the local technical college, you might have to compete with other businesses for the same pool of staff. Instead, use a multifaceted approach. Work with the local college to attract the needed summer help, but also review the possibility of adding longer shifts or overtime and ask your HR department to contact retirees to see if they want to pick up some open hours.


I encourage you to be creative, not only in where to find potential help, but also in what schedules might work. If you need to fill 120 hours in your packaging department, you could schedule eight people for 15 hours per week rather than three people for 40 hours per week,


Another example of flexibility is to offer work during off-shift hours. For example, if normal hours of operations are 6 a.m.–3 p.m., allow employees to work from 4 a.m.–3 p.m. or from 6 a.m.–5 p.m. This allows employees to pick up extra hours while helping you fill needed production hours.


Are there large manufacturers in your area that shut down each summer to retool for the new model year? You might be able to recruit some of their employees to help out during that time. Their workers might not want eight weeks of free time.


Don’t wait until your staffed hours are below your needed production hours. Get ahead of it now. If you can’t offset the hours lost due to employee vacation time, it is best to work with your customers ahead of delivery issues. It is always better to be upfront and honest with your customers rather than trying to remedy a situation after missing shipments.



Michael S. is our Manufacturing guru
I have over 30 years experience in a broad range of manufacturing areas. Starting with an apprenticeship in Germany I’ve worked my way through a variety of positions within the manufacturing field. I got my start as a Tool and Die maker. I next became a supervisor of a class A tool room, then manager of a machining department. I was exposed to lean manufacturing in the mid 90s and adapted the lean philosophy. Loving and teaching the lean approach, I moved on to become a Continuous Improvement manager which led to a job as a manufacturing manager. I joined Acuity in 2015 as their manufacturing expert. I hope to evolve how manufacturers deal with and think about insurance companies, as well as be a resource to my fellow employees – enabling them to better understand the unique needs of manufacturers.

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