Actualize your workforce | PLANT

Unleash the innovation that lies within your company.

October 25, 2013   by Gregg Gordon

Workforce management systems create an environment that allows employees to feel secure, then become more productive and engaged.

Manufacturers are facing challenging business conditions. Costs are increasing and capacity utilization rates are dropping. It’s becoming more difficult to find and keep people who possess the right skills, raise productivity levels, strengthen regulatory compliance, while responding to markets and the investment community. It’s easy to see the need to identify and adopt solutions that address these issues, but don’t miss out on the pool of ideas and potential innovations that reside within your workforce.

Whether it’s structured programs or informal peer-to-peer contributions, smart organizations engage their people and, as a result, develop a greater ability to identify new market opportunities, increase productivity, strengthen safety and compliance, improve product/service quality and implement better cost controls.
It starts with an “actualized workforce.” The trick is to align each person’s energies and aptitudes to tap the innovation that lies within. For that to happen, the employee must be secure, productive and engaged.

Automating and streamlining workforce management creates these conditions by measuring optimized labour expenses, increased productivity and reduced compliance exposure.


Instead of resorting to simplistic (and often shortsighted) wage-cutting practices that frequently backfire, streamline back-office functions such as timekeeping and payroll that are sometimes vulnerable to fraud and abuse (such as buddy punching). Tightening these functions eliminates manual work and enables managing by exception, improves back-office productivity and lowers costs, all without any material impact on the production floor.

Equipping department managers and other plant leaders stuck at a desk with smart phones or tablets allows them to manage the workforce on the shop floor where they are most effective.

Bigger picture, aggregated data presents a clearer view of trends and opportunities to improve safety and lower costs. For instance, comprehensive reviews of safety incidents, lost time and workers’ compensation claims uncover areas meriting greater attention. These kinds of insights helped the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, a commercial shipyard in Philadelphia, save more than $2 million in medical insurance premiums without affecting wages.

Managing in real time
Manufacturers create and sustain higher levels of productivity by enhancing worker performance and increasing the use of existing capacity. Disparities in worker output may point to a need for training on tools, machines and processes. Or materials may be inferior.

And let’s not forget the eight-hour workday that doesn’t translate into eight actual hours of work. Some studies show as much as 40% to 50% of a worker’s day is devoted to non-production tasks, from machine setup and maintenance to material delays, repairs and other bits of lost time. Identifying these subtle trends improves overall labour effectiveness. Conversely, when capacity must be strategically reduced, it can be done with surgical precision, rather than by applying across-the-board cuts.

Many workforce management solutions provide insights in real time, on the manager’s mobile device. You see the status of the shop floor, who needs help and who’s available. The ability to shift workers on the fly throughout the day means corrective action is taken while it still matters, which experts believe will improve labour utilization by as much as 7%.

The experience and knowledge of your workforce will also help your company conform to the growing range of regulatory frameworks. Success starts with ensuring compensation is accurate and leave-benefits are calculated and delivered properly. It’s not uncommon for a major manufacturer to deal with several separate labour agreements and union contracts, creating a significant administrative burden. For example, there are dozens of ways to calculate overtime pay. Different supervisors might use their own interpretations, leaving the company vulnerable to fines, sanctions and make-good payments.

Workforce automation eliminates unwanted variability to ensure the payment process is consistent and accurate. When new contracts, rules and policies emerge, they are encoded in the software, eliminating the need to retrain supervisors on changing policies.

There’s a lot of untapped talent in your plant. With an effective workforce management system in place, employees feel secure, productive and engaged enough to leverage their creativity for greater business success.

Gregg Gordon is a senior director, manufacturing practice group, for Kronos Inc., a workforce management firm. E-mail Gordon, who is based in Chelmsford, Mass. at Kronos Canadian Systems Inc. is based in Mississauga, Ont.

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This article appears in the Oct. 2013 issue of PLANT.

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