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Direct personnel planning every bit as important as OEE

Let people flow with the plant's actual dynamics

A focus on Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is meant to achieve optimum productivity on production lines. But aren’t we focusing too exclusively on the process, the technology and the machines alone? I’m convinced that if companies focus more on the best possible use of the people manning those production lines and on their capabilities, total effectiveness can increase by leaps and bounds. Direct personnel planning is therefore of major importance for production and plant managers.

Direct personnel planning is all about achieving the best possible organization of salaried and flex-time personnel and their capabilities. About manning production lines with the right number of people. About mobilizing and developing all of the know-how and skills those people need. At the monthly planning level, we’re talking about a horizon of 6 to 12 months; at the weekly planning level: the roster.

Monthly planning 

The first priority is to establish a link between personnel planning and the tactical monthly planning: sales & operations planning (S&OP). In other words: when planning for the months to come, we must look much further than projected customer demand, stock keeping, planned maintenance, etc. It is every bit as important to carefully plan the human side of the production process. What is the optimal ratio of salaried to flex-time personnel? Do the people to whom we have access possess the skills and qualifications they need? That is to say: who needs to receive training or attend refresher courses during the upcoming period? And when must that be done? This plays a particularly pronounced role in the pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs industries, where strict norms apply with regard to quality and safety systems. What’s more: carefully implemented direct personnel planning can actually furnish proof of accreditations received.

Flexible weekly planning 

And then one has the weekly planning: the roster. Here, a good hard look must be taken at which departments, production lines and workplaces call for what kind of know-how, qualifications, training and experience. This where the ancient doctrine of “the right man or woman in the right place” comes into play. Of course, you carefully schedule your people to man specific workplaces and production lines. But... at the same time you have to make sure that this doesn’t obstruct the flow. So you build in enough flexibility in your roster to let people “flow” with the actual dynamics of the plant itself. Do some of your processes involve fresh daily products? Then the flexibility we’re talking about here may be a day-to-day affair.

Teamwork and cooperation

I’ve applied direct personnel planning in a variety of plants, any number of times. It provides a considerable boost in productivity and quality, because decisions are made on the basis of the actual situation. With a view to both the long and the short term. In my experience, this bears fruit particularly in those production processes involving hands-on, labor-intensive work. And in situations where one sees peaks and off-peak periods resulting, for example, from seasonal influences or vacation periods. The great thing is that one sees teamwork and cooperation come into play almost automatically between team leaders. While the internal competition between production lines and departments – my work needs to be finished first – vanishes and makes way for shared responsibility for total production results. Direct personnel planning, finally, also has another advantage: decisions are made on the basis of facts. And no longer on the basis of personal interpretations, individual perspectives and the all-too-familiar gut feelings. “We’re working like crazy” is a sound you’ll hear only during the busiest of all production peaks. 

In a nutshell: planning is foresight, in the process industry as well. And those bold enough to go with the flow of actual plant dynamics will be rewarded with the best results.

Erik Haks

‘Decisions are made on the bases of facts. 
And no longer on “gut feelings”. 

Publish date 21 November 2017