It’s that time of year again – the smell of Holiday treats fills the air, parties are a plenty, and toys, gadgets, and electronics line the shelves as retailers gear up for the biggest shopping season of the year. In fact: Retail Sales Are Expected to Top $1.1 Trillion This Holiday Season

That’s the biggest Holiday shopping projection, ever. So, as you create your shopping lists and indulge in a cookie (or two), take a moment to consider all that goes on to create the products on those shelves at this time of year.

Retailers spend months creating sales projections, filling inventories, and developing very specific product placements around stores or online to meet increasing marketplace demands and shopper expectations.

But where are all those soon-to-be-gifts coming from? Who are the elves behind the shelves? 

They support the Holidays, from Hanukah to Christmas to Kwanzaa, by producing the food on the table at family dinners, building the toys that bring children joy, making the gym equipment that supports healthy resolutions for the New Year, and so much more.

Where do they start? Retailers, driven by soaring consumer demand, increase their orders to manufacturers, who then gear up their production lines to support the busiest shopping time of year. 

With these order increases, how can manufactures ensure success?

They can prepare by considering three major implications on their businesses during the Holiday season:

  1. Supply chain management and increases in production: Manufacturers need to plan ahead to adequately prepare for the increase of materials needed, supply chain operations, production planning capacity, etc. Doing so can ensure success to meet the increase in consumer demand.
  2. Pressure on the workforce: With increase in production and output comes an increase in the demand on the workforce. Employees will likely be working overtime to meet increased production demands, so manufacturers need to properly manage fatigue and keep employee engagement front of mind.  Visibility into overtime can help address this.
  3. Managing time off requests and absenteeism: Not only is the workforce affected by the increase in production, they also have their own Holiday planning and time off requests for the season. This can be challenging for Manufacturers as they must walk a fine line between managing an increase in production along with an increase in time off requests and unplanned absenteeism. All generations in the workforce – from Gen Z to Millennials to Baby Boomers, also want visibility into scheduling decisions.
“The application of ‘equality’ needs to be transparent, especially with something as emotionally charged as shift schedules, because without the facts, employees are left to guess how decisions are made.

- John Frehse, Being Present: A Practical Guide for Transforming the Employee Experience of Your Frontline Workforce

Employees want to be sure that they are treated fairly and that applicable factors such as seniority are taken into consideration when time off during the Holidays is managed. 

What can help manufacturers manage these challenges? Technology. 

Just as Santa upgraded his sleigh with dashboard navigation and digital Christmas lists (think The Christmas Chronicles with Kurt Russell), Manufacturers can also implement technologies on the plant floor to help battle the demands of the Holidays.  

But what about the workforce? Technology needs to not only provide the consumer grade experience employees expect, it also needs to empower them to have more input over their schedules with the ability to provide shift preferences, or easily swap a shift when they need too.  

Scheduling technology provides these benefits that helps support employees during the most hectic time of year and allows managers to focus as much of their time as possible on meeting increasing production demands.

Scheduling Technology Driving Efficiencies and Employee Engagement

  1. Mobile capabilities allow employees easy access to schedules, accrued time off, and the ability to easily swap shifts. For managers, that mobile component translates to higher engagement with employees, allowing them to work from anywhere, including the plant floor.
  2. Intelligent automation tools including artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), and machine learning, can automate scheduling practices and approvals, increasing employee engagement and saving managerial time.
  3. Optimizing the workforce to meet shifting production requirements can be a challenge given changes in customer demand during the Holiday season. Technology that delivers real time visibility into operational data drives agility, allowing manufacturers to realign labor when needed.

To learn more about how scheduling technology can create higher efficiencies and drive employee engagement, read our blog: Is Scheduling Your Manufacturing Workforce a Challenge? Technology Can Help and download the white paper: Scheduling Your Manufacturing Workforce.

Happy Holidays!

Published: Friday, December 6, 2019