Business slowdown: Reduced work week or layoffs?

We have to face facts," Plant Engineer Ralph Cummings told Maintenance Foreman Al Gorman. "With orders off 20%, we can no longer support the current payroll load. We've got people sitting around on their butts." Gorman frowned.


We have to face facts," Plant Engineer Ralph Cummings told Maintenance Foreman Al Gorman. "With orders off 20%, we can no longer support the current payroll load. We've got people sitting around on their butts."

Gorman frowned. He had been expecting this.

"I hate to do this," his boss said. "But we have no choice. We'll have to lay off a couple of men."

"I can't argue with the rationale," Gorman said. "What I'm afraid of is that a layoff could cost us more in the end than we save."

"How do you figure that?"

"The guys on the maintenance crew are all experienced employees. A heavy investment has gone into their training and development. If we let them go, they'll find other jobs. When business picks up it'll cost us a bundle to break in and train their replacements."

"That's good thinking," Cummings conceded. "Which leaves us with only one alternative: Cut the workweek from 40 hr to 35 hr, at least on a temporary basis."

Gorman's face brightened. "That makes good sense to me."

Cummings nodded. "Okay, consider it done."

But when the announcement was posted on the bulletin board that afternoon it triggered a storm of protest.

"We've been on a 40-hr workweek for years," a spokesperson complained. "Management can't unilaterally cut our income like that."

Gorman disagreed. "Management is obligated, and has a right, to act in the company's best economic interests."

The spokesperson threatened to sue.


Question: If the threat is carried out, how would you rate management's chances of winning?

Plant engineer's decision: "The shortened workweek stands," Cummings said. "A 40-hr workweek isn't guaranteed by the labor agreement. Nothing prevents management from cutting it to 35 hr to avoid a layoff."

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
Welding ergonomics, 2017 Salary Survey, and surge protection
2017 Top Plant winner, Best practices, Plant Engineering at 70, Top 10 stories of 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Setting internal automation standards
Knowing how and when to use parallel generators
PID controllers, Solar-powered SCADA, Using 80 GHz radar sensors

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me