Workforce management solutions offer guidance for making lean staffs more efficient
Since deploying a workforce management solution, Briggs & Stratton has been able to reduce its workforce by 20 percent while also increasing throughput.
One of the consequences of the U.S. recession for manufacturing has been the increase in the practice of employee layoffs.
That, of course, makes efficient workforce management more important. After all, once a company has had a reduction in force, it becomes vital to maximize productivity of the remaining employees to ensure they meet corporate goals.
That indeed is why sales of workforce management software grew well in 2008, says Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting . Fluss also expects the workforce management market to continue growing well in coming years.
For example, the requirement to provide a better customer experience while improving productivity and controlling costs is important for contact centers during the recession, Fluss says.
"Workforce management continues to be one of the most important contact center productivity tools," Fluss says. "By optimizing the use of the new generation of management solutions, contact centers can reduce staff related costs by 10 percent to 20 percent, enabling companies to come through the recession with minimum impact on service levels and the customer experience."
Tom Kozenski, a vice president with inventory, transportation, and workforce management solution supplier RedPrairie , also has seen an increase in demand for workforce management solutions, because, as he says, "when money's tight, people want full value out of everything-including employees."
One of the highest costs in any supply chain is labor, so layoffs offer a way to quickly and substantially reduce cost, Kozenski says. But, in reality, that is a short-sighted approach, he says.
"If a manufacturer's management has the vision, optimizing the workforce usually proves to be a more strategic approach," Kozenski says. "That way, productivity increases quickly-there's usually a labor productivity improvement of somewhere between five percent and 25 percent. Additionally, the company is better prepared to seize opportunity when the economy eventually turns around because its labor force is already efficient."
Briggs & Stratton , a Milwaukee-based producer of air-cooled gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment, realized that level of improvement. The company's replacement parts division handles 70 thousand to 75 thousand SKUs representing $40 million to $45 million in inventory.
In the past, there was no standardized way for associates to do their jobs or to measure productivity. Management realized the company could gain greater productivity if it standardized work methods, set goals, and measured results, says Bill Harlow, director of distribution operations for the replacement parts division.
When the company deployed a RedPrairie comprehensive workforce management solution for its distribution and packaging operations, chief among its goals was to enhance associates' productivity through use of preferred work methods and discrete standards based on actual work content, Harlow says. That would ensure productivity measurements were fair and accurate, providing a solid base for improvement programs and associate assessment.
"Since deploying the solution, Briggs & Stratton has been able to reduce its workforce by 20 percent, but also increase throughput," says John Guy, vice president of Supply Chain and Distribution at Briggs & Stratton. "We estimate that's saved us about a million dollars."
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After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
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