The bias for or against point solutions ebb and flow over time. Broadly speaking, many software applications deal with large volumes of data, but have fairly narrow purposes. For example, time & attendance systems focus on paying each worker for time worked. The data collection is important, but at the end of the day the system is a transactional one and in general does not stray too far from its intended purpose. Scheduling systems, on the other hand, are engines that evolve from mathematics and operations research. The knowledge-base to create scheduling systems for complex, multiple constrained problems is different from business and data collection systems. This statement is not intended to disparage transactional systems – you would not want a mathematician build a payroll system – but the buyer should exercise great caution in assuming a time & attendance vendor has the expertise to craft a labor scheduling system suitable for complex work environments. Implementing the workplace rules is not a simple case of a string of “if-then-else” statements as found with simple staffing systems, but involves solving combinatorics with a possibility of a high number of interacting constraints. The market evidence is that with scheduling systems, point scheduling solutions remain the most robust for sophisticated applications.
Creating a labor schedule is a key engineering step in your production planning cycle. Given your multiple products and deadlines over multiple shifts, days or weeks and given the volatility of any pool of labor resources, can your production plans be completed on time? Whether work orders are created in QAD, SAP or Preactor, now there is an answer.
Tugboat’s Labor Scheduling solution, delivered Software-as-a-Service, fills a labor roster that begins as QAD Work Orders, or as a Preactor Order Sequence. The work orders are first converted into a Labor Demand including jobs with start and run times over shifts and days. Then SOS quickly fills the roster for the jobs given your available resources and rules, with optimized job assignments. Now there is visibility and control in your planning cycle for the review of a planned labor roster and how it can support or delay your production plans.
We recently attended the QAD Explore 2011 user conference in San Antonio, TX as a Silver sponsor. At the conference, we spoke with Derek Singleton, ERP Analyst, who had the to opportunity to catch up with Phil Friedman, Vice President of Marketing for QAD. Derek and Tugboat wanted to know what was new in QAD’s 2011 release. Phil explained their key announcements around business intelligence, mobile functionality, and a continued emphasis on cloud ERP.
One of our General Mills customers recently re-bid 96 jobs. This was due to installation of some new equipment. When they’ve had to do this in the past, with a workforce of over 400, this was an administrative nightmare: the workers filling out individual bid sheets, sorting through the bids, ranking them in seniority order, awarding new bids. Then due to bumping, they’d have to do it over again figuring jobs that needed to be re-bid.
Tugboat’s recently launched tools have automated this entire process. A staffing level planning tool enables management to plan the number of needed jobs. It automatically posts the new jobs to a job bidding window which is available to all employees via Tugboat’s self-service portal. This allows employees to do the rest by themselves. The bids stay open for two weeks so they can also cancel and prioritize their bids. The bids are processed automatically when the bidding closes. All this with no paper!
Had they continued doing this by hand, explains the General Mills scheduler, it would have taken over 2 month. “It made our life a lot better. Tugboat got us through the bidding process more accurately. A planner’s dreams come true”.
Does this situation occur with your workforce? When the workforce is increased or decreased in size? Or for simple open jobs when someone leaves the workforce?
Newport Beach, California workforce scheduling specialists Tugboat Software have recently announced the introduction of their latest new capability for their laboroptimization of workflow within manufacturing facilities. The company’s new workforce scheduling application now includes the ability to plan and schedule events for employees during regular shift work job assignments.
As part of Tugboat’s work schedule program events scheduling ensures that each worker is scheduled to attend necessary training meetings while the program also schedules a qualified backup to work during their absence. Events or meeting can last anywhere from 30 minutes to all day. The application will build a work schedule program that is designed to streamline the way in which a company’s workforce operates and eliminate the often costly misallocation of resources during training events.
Tugboat Software’s president, Patricia Schilling, explains, “Our customers are under pressure to make the best use of the mix of skills in their existing skills inventory. Somehow they need a way to cross-train their workers even while they’re usually punched in.” Tugboat’s solution is tightly integrated with their work schedule program. “This means that if they are away from their regular job, someone with the same skill has to take their place so production is not interrupted. Often this requires that the replacement worker comes and works overtime for as little as 30 minutes. This new feature takes care of this so now there’s a way”. Patricia also explains that this solution also tracks the training history for each worker.
Within a broad array of industries, organizations are now searching for programs that will help them to automate their internal scheduling processes, including events or meetings, in order to achieve higher productivity and reduce operating expenditure. Within this field, Tugboat Software has become one of the leading lights. Their pioneering work has helped some of the world’s largest corporations streamline their workflow management systems and align in-house training objectives with employee resources.
Workforce scheduling requirements and rules tend to vary greatly between companies. The new capability from Tugboat, however, conforms to in house rules and policies, and then automates labor and event scheduling that then becomes the focal point of the scheduling application. With events as well as labor scheduling fully automated, management staff are now better positioned to respond to other key areas of the business that may require direct input from decision-makers.
Now, companies can truly gain first-hand control on their scheduling management thanks to this leading-class solution from industry experts, Tugboat Software.
Amongst pressures faced by manufacturing operations today, matching the size of one’s workforce to their projected production requirements is a growing challenge. Tugboat’s new job bidding tools include a labor planning interface that manages the desired number of jobs for each department and shift. Users can develop a list of minimum jobs required during both slow and peak times to assist in determining their desired staffing plan. Once these levels are set, available job assignments are posted for job bidding to existing employees on the employee Kiosk. Tugboat’s workforce scheduling solution will also automatically awards the new job assignments according to HR policies.
What makes this challenging for larger operations is that typically scores of employees, or more, are affected. They refer to this as ‘furlough and recall’. If people are furloughed, job assignments for the remaining workforce have to be reset. However, any job assignment changes must conform to existing union or HR-policy rules, so. There’s a ripple effect on other workers as senior workers bid for jobs now that the workforce has been reduced. Similarly, during a re-hire multiple new jobs are opened up and again current senior workers are entitled to bid on these new jobs. This again has a ripple effect.
Tugboat’s tools enable employees to bid on job assignments during a downsizing or bid on new positions when production is again increased. Tightly integrated with Tugboat’s labor scheduling solution, these tools considerably reduce the workload for HR and front-line managers by placing responsibility for job bidding in the hands of each worker. Tugboat’s proprietary optimization engine will automatically assign new job positions according to all of the Customer’s site-specific labor scheduling rules while conforming to their job bidding policies and planning goals.
We’ve also developed this new software so that it is tightly integrated with Tugboat’s skills management solution. Workers assigned to new jobs, are automatically signed up for any needed on-the-job training.
Even if an application appears to really meet one’s needs, there is always the challenge of implementation. A financial manager for Coca-Cola recently asked, “This application looks like it will do the job but answer this: how much trouble will we uncover when it comes to implementation?” He was specifically referring to the resistance that would likely occur from their schedulers and a unionized workforce.
When it comes to those that actually do the scheduling, most would rather do things the way they’ve been doing them – even if there is a little inefficiency and maybe hidden costs due to some redundancies. When it comes to the workforce, most will naturally want to avoid changes in how jobs are assigned. However assigning them more efficiently takes some analysis of the rules and policies that control how the workforce is currently scheduled.
So how do we implement a fully automated application like SOS without running into resistance from the schedulers and the workforce? Along with getting the data for jobs and people in place, a project usually starts with focus on the existing scheduling rules. However, there’s a lot more to automation than getting all the rules and policies analyzed and here’s a way forward.
Right from the start, even from the Internet at home, Tugboat’s solution enables workers to make requests for:
• Days off
• Open jobs
This interface also makes reports easily available to the workers for:
• Available OT
• Scheduled jobs
This is a two-stage approach and it takes the pressure for change off of the schedulers. Automating requests and reports means, right from the start, less paper and less discussion with each and every worker. And the workforce? Automating requests and reports will make life on-the-job a little easier without raising questions about how jobs are assigned. It’s called empowerment. For management, the cost of getting to this level of implementation is fairly low. Having data for your existing workers and jobs uploaded into the application is all that’s required.
To summarize: save the challenge of analyzing and documenting all your rules and policies until a later stage. Get the easy stuff in and running for an early payback and buy-in from the workforce