We want to keep up with customer demands. How much can we produce without going to another shift, what is our shift capacity? We don’t have anything figured out for the night shift. When should we consider doing this, and what would be involved? How do we add another shift, and can we keep it profitable?

Thoughts of the Day

You’re smart to pay attention to one of the bigger fixed costs in any business, which is its cost of real estate and equipment. There are several considerations to factor in to understand the numbers. You need to know how much you can produce now versus if you added on an extra shift. Reports will help you stay on top of what’s going on even when you’re not around. Use reports to keep the company profitable. Look internally for someone on your day shift who might be interested in becoming a supervisor to help manage a new shift.

Adding a second shift costs less than you think…

When real estate and equipment sit idle, whether for vacations, down time for repairs, or off-hour shifts, that’s wasted opportunity. Adding a second shift costs less than you think, because you don’t have to pay for the costs of real estate and equipment – they’re already in place. If you don’t think you have enough work for a full second shift, start with a few evening hours and identify some of the staff that’s willing to work late to get out more production.

You’ll need staff you can trust to effectively manage the work that has to be done…

When operating at night, you might have to pay a premium to get people to work outside the 9 am – 5 pm standard work hours. You’ll need staff you can trust to effectively manage the work that has to be done, and the people who will be doing the work. Someone also needs to be in charge of the equipment, as it’s unlikely you’ll be staying around for the full second shift. Pick a supervisor candidate with good training, communication and technical skills. Hire night staff with slightly higher than average production skills. Use that staff to pump out work, when interviewing, look for people who like to work an overnight shift, or have experience living that lifestyle.

Take additional safety precautions on the second shift. Statistics show that accidents are more likely to happen outside normal 9 – 5 work hours. People get tired, they rush, they have less supervision, etc. Whatever the cause, you want to do everything possible to insure you have an accident free work environment.

Set up a good communication system for the night shift to share information.

It gets especially tricky for the night shift if they come up with questions about specific customer orders or requirements. There wont be around to ask the questions until the next morning, and night shift is already home in bed. Evening and night time staff will also have to make requests for equipment servicing, inventory ordering, and shipping orders out to customers to be handled by people on the day shift. Set up a good communication system for the night shift to share information with daytime staff by email, internal messaging system, or some other option.

Decide on what are the key things you need to know about what happens during the shift. Turn that into a report with boxes to fill in, so that your shift supervisor knows what’s expected for feedback. Leave room at the bottom of the report for notes on special circumstances. Make a schedule to stay late at least once a week to meet with your shift supervisor to talk about how things are going.

Find someone who is already familiar with how your shop works.

Your best bet would be to find someone who is already familiar with how your shop works, to head up the evening or night time shift. Look at staffing the evening shift in part by asking employees on days if they might be interested in an opportunity to grow. Consider shifting employees onto “shoulder hours”, come in late during the day shift, stay over to work part of the evening shift. This will allow you to bridge some of the separation of the two shifts.

Looking for a good book?

Factory Physics for Managers: How Leaders Improve Performance in a Post-Lean Six Sigma World, by Edward S. Pound and Jeffrey H. Bell.