Rota Planning Guide for a Downtime Proof Manufacturing Business

Neglecting order fulfilment in any manufacturing business can incur issues. Here is how you can simplify production scheduling & be legally rota compliant.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: March 1, 2023
  • 7 Minuten
Rota Planning Guide for a Downtime Proof Manufacturing Business

The manufacturing industry often has significant challenges where employee scheduling is concerned. From industry regulations to production lines that need to run all the time, to the mixture of skill sets you need in your teams, there’s no shortage of problems around the corner.

To manage your company workforce and production needs, you need to invest in building a manufacturing shift schedule and process that works for your whole company. But how do you do it effectively?

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about rota planning in the manufacturing industry. We’ll look at common shift schedules, how to choose the right one for your business, as well as best practices you can use to make the process far easier.

Let’s dive in. 

What is a manufacturing shift schedule?

A manufacturing shift schedule dictates the hours worked and team structure of a business. It will outline how many hours per week everyone works, whether they need to work day or night shifts, how many days each employee gets off, and the number of teams the business is split into to ensure it can operate effectively.

Manufacturing businesses can follow many types of shift work schedules. The right one for each business will depend on their unique needs.

Why is scheduling important in the production and manufacturing industry?

Neglecting order fulfilment in any manufacturing business can lead to problems. Small inefficiencies in scheduling may not be noticeable at first but can grow into big problems if they aren’t tackled and may lead to bottlenecks in production processes. They can cause significant issues in production flow, and in turn, this can affect the whole business. It may also lead to:

  1. Customers getting frustrated with delayed orders.
  2. Staff members getting stressed trying to keep up with work.

Production scheduling in manufacturing is one of the hardest but most important things to get right. If any part of the schedule is off, then delays happen. 

What are common examples of manufacturing shift schedules?

There are a variety of types of work shifts used in the manufacturing industry. The right one for your business will depend on the needs of the company, the team size, and other individual preferences.

Here are some manufacturing shift schedules that a business can consider to get the best out of their staff:

a. Rotating shifts

Rotating shift patterns are a schedule where employees consistently switch between day and night (or sometimes afternoon) shifts. For example, employees will work one week on day shifts and one week on night shifts.

Rotating shift schedules are common for companies that require consistency in their processes and don’t need (or want) an overly complex schedule management system.

b. 2-3-2 shifts

2-3-2 work schedules are a pattern that divides staff into teams with each team working a rotating schedule over a four-week period. The teams will work 12-hour shifts in the pattern of two days on, two days off, three on, two off, two on, and three days off.

Because the schedule runs for four weeks, it brings consistency to teams. However, it can be tiring for staff due to having to work 3 consecutive 12-hour shifts at some point in the schedule.

c. 4 on, 4 off shifts

4 on 4 off schedules are effective because they give a company full 24/7 coverage, with staff working 4 days of 12 hours shifts before having 4 days off.

One of the main downsides of the 4 on, 4 off shift pattern is that staff will need to work over weekends.

How do I pick the right shift schedule for my teams?

That’s a difficult question to answer and will depend on the individual needs of the business. Here are a few best practices that you can follow to make the job easier:

a. Determine business goals

Firstly, the shift pattern you employ needs to fit the business. You need to ask questions like:

  1. Do you need to be running the factory 24/7?
  2. Are there days where there is no work in your manufacturing schedule?
  3. Do you need team members with certain skills available at specific times?

Business considerations like this will affect the shift schedule a business chooses and how teams are split and managed on an ongoing basis. 

b. Look for up and downtime

Different manufacturing businesses will have different demands on their time. There might be busy times of the year or even day, or you may have a weekly schedule that is front or back loaded.

If staffing demands are changeable, you need to take this into consideration when planning. A good smart scheduling software like the one we provide at Papershift can make it simple for your HR teams to adjust staffing needs, assign team members to shifts, and find the best employees for each time slot.

c. Ensure shift schedules work for staff

Staff need to have a schedule that works with them. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they want and tailor scheduling (if you can) to suit their needs. The best way to start building any shift scheduling process is to consult with teams about what they want.

Questions to consider asking are:

  1. Does anyone need a particular day off due to childcare needs?
  2. Do any employees have skills that you need to have in the business at all times?
  3. Do people have a preference for certain shift patterns over others?

Asking these questions is a good way to understand the needs of staff and provides a starting point for building a shift schedule. 

A schedule that provides a healthy work/life balance will improve employee satisfaction and retention, all while keeping the business running smoothly.

d. Use software to automate the scheduling process

The first step to improving how a business manages employee scheduling is to have a tool that makes the job easier.

Manually managing employee availability on paper or in spreadsheets is time-consuming and often very difficult.

Using a manufacturing management platform like the scheduling software we provide at Papershift will let you create rules around scheduling, conjure up schedules automatically, and alert employees to changes in their shift pattern.

e. Plan well in advance so there are no surprises for anyone

Planning is essential when creating any shift schedules. If a production line doesn’t have staff, they can’t run, which can lead to missed targets and deadlines.

If a business knows its scheduling needs one, two, or six months in advance, the job will be more predictable, and issues can be taken on as they arise.

What laws relate to rota planning in the manufacturing industry?

When building any manufacturing shift schedule, a business will need to make sure they don’t breach any of the national or industry specific laws. 

For adult workers, the law (as set out in the Working Time Directive) states that all employees are legally entitled to one break of 20 minutes if they work more than six hours in any given working day. 

On top of this, the employee must have an 11-hour gap between shifts. Any shift schedule will need to take this into consideration.

The four stages of rota planning in the manufacturing industry

There are four stages of scheduling in the manufacturing industry. These are:

Step 1 – Production planning

Production planning is the process that ensures a business has sufficient raw materials, labour, and resources in order to produce finished products on schedule.

It is a crucial step in production management and scheduling. Good production planning involves the accurate tracking of:

  • Raw materials
  • Team members
  • Workstations
  • Processes
  • Supplies

Knowing measurements and figures is not enough. You need to understand how each part of the process interacts and works together.

Step 2- Routing

Routing is the route or path that needs to be followed during each step of the manufacturing process.

The manufacturing route defines the path from raw materials through to the production of a finished product. 

Step 3 – Work Scheduling

Production scheduling is the management of these processes to ensure they are completed in a timely and economical fashion.

Step 4 – Execution

Execution is related to the process of undertaking the task of production planning and scheduling.

How can Papershift’s scheduling software help improve rota planning?

A business could build a complex spreadsheet, mapping out the week, month, and even year of scheduling. However, this is going to take time to create and maintain. The easier and more effective option is to use a scheduling software like the one we provide at Papershift.

As a company grows, workforce management can get difficult to manage. Using workforce management software like our best-selling package, allows you to create systems that split teams and departments using custom rules, assign shifts to individual employees, and reduce turnover by making it easy for employees to understand when they are needed at work.

In conclusion

Rota planning is never easy in any industry, but when you combine the many different moving parts constantly at play in the manufacturing industry, it can become a nightmare.

We hope that this guide has helped you to not only understand the issues that scheduling brings to the manufacturing industry but also how best to tackle them.

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Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)