Archive for November, 2008

The Four Day Work Week is Here to Stay

November 11, 2008 by Roger

A few months ago Setpoint moved to a 4 day work week.  The plan was to run it as an experiment for 90 days and see how things worked out.  I’m pleased to report the experiment has been a rousing success and that we intend to continue on with virtually our entire workforce on a 4 day, 10 hours per day schedule, Monday through Thursday.

The feedback from our team members has been extremely positive, as everyone has settled into routines of spending most Fridays with their families or enjoying their hobbies.  There are of course exceptions to this.  We have been in a busy cycle for the last 8 weeks or so and have had many people working on Fridays in order to meet our obligations to our customers.  But even with a day of overtime on Friday’s we’ve usually been able to take off Saturdays and Sundays for two-day weekends.  Morale is up, productivity is up.

We did spend some considerable time and effort upfront to alert our customers to our plans regarding the 4-day week, and I believe that helped us to set the proper expectations early on.  There have been a few customers that have needed our assistance on Fridays and we’ve been able to fill those needs by various team members volunteering to take care of those needs.  Each of our regular customers have cell phone numbers for members of the management team, and if something unforeseen comes up on Fridays, they can call and get help most of the time.  But the calls have slowed down as customers have gotten used to us being closed on Fridays and they tend to plan accordingly whenever possible.

One unexpected benefit that came about from the schedule change was an opportunity to improve our Just-in-Time (JIT) procurement process.  In the past we have ordered all parts at the start of a project, which led to them being assembled as they trickled in.  This method caused a number of inefficiencies for us: the assembly technicians wasted significant time starting a project and then stopping when they ran out of parts, we would have to pay for parts often before we really had any use for them, and there was often chaos created by people going through parts and then putting them back when they had to stop.  Sometimes parts would get put in the wrong totes or even on the wrong project rack.  With the new system we order parts as required, we do not accept early deliveries, and we ask all of our vendors to deliver parts on Thursdays.  On Fridays we have a part-time expeditor come in and receive parts and distribute them to their proper job kits.  When the assembly crew comes in on Mondays the parts are ready and waiting for them.

Overall, we’re very pleased with our 4-day work week experience and we plan on continuing with it into the foreseeable future.  If you have any thoughts about trying a four-day week at your company, my advice would be to embrace the concept and do whatever you can to make it work for you.  I know we have been pleasantly surprised by the positives!

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Importance of Cross-Training Employees

November 6, 2008 by Machel

It’s Tuesday and your payroll clerk needs to enter payroll to make sure all employees are paid by Friday.  The dreaded phone call comes.  Your payroll clerk can’t come in because her father has had a heart attack and is in ICU.  It will be several days before she can come in because it is pretty serious and she needs to help her mother.  Do you have someone to pick up where she left off?

Although the chances are pretty slim that something like that can happen, happen it does.  My former employer called me because the lady that does all the month-end paperwork and tax quarterlies couldn’t come in for the next month because of an illness.  There are two other people in the office, but they were never trained on how to do her job.  The policies handbook is 10 years out of date and did not explain the process.  Fortunately I was able to help out and they got their taxes filed on time. 

This is a great example on how important it is to cross-train important areas of the office.  Not all areas of a business need cross-training, because there are some things you can put off.  Ask yourself this question, what functions of the business will come to a halt if the person doing it can no longer do it?  Identify the most important aspects of your business and start training from there.

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