Increase factory output: Part 5 – Working Overtime

OK – let me say up-front where I stand on this: I’m not a big fan of overtime working, as it’s often practised. In my experience it’s often the wrong solution to the wrong problem. I’ve seen too much regular institutionalised overtime and it’s something that I’ve always tried to eliminate in every factory I’ve ever managed. When it comes to individuals’ pay I’d far rather that production operators  were far more productive and far better paid. In my view, low pay and low productivity go hand in hand and are not consistent with Value-Driven Manufacturing.

It’s a very complex issue, touching as it does on so many areas:

  • work-life balance
  • the written and unwritten contract of employment
  • power and politics
  • industrial relations

For these reasons, overtime working relates closely to the third principle of Value-Driven Manufacturing: Effective Leadership, based on strong values and beliefs. How and why overtime working is used (or not used) says a great deal about the culture of the organisation, its values and its leadership.

Don’t get me wrong – overtime working has its place. So when and how might overtime working make sense? Here are some thoughts –

1. When it’s a short term fix to provide valuable additional labour capacity. In other words, where it satisfies the basic principles of Value-Driven Manufacturing – it increases the value of the business and / or it delivers additional value to the customer.

2. When it makes more sense than the many alternatives, for example:

  • applying Lean principles to create additional capacity by reducing labour hours required
  • rescheduling / prioritising delivery dates
  • re-deploying staff from other areas (including Management and Admin)
  • employing additional staff (perhaps temporary, agency or subcontract labour)
  • flexible demand-based hours (eg annualised hours – but not “zero hours” please!)
  • automation

3. When it’s seen as part of a concerted effort to achieve an usually diificult / important / one-off challenge.

As always, this is my personal view – I’d be interested to hear of  other people’s experiences and opinons on this, so please feel free to log on and comment…

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