Potential Pitfalls in Gathering Labor Management Data

Early awareness of problems can often save appreciable cost and reduce wasted time when gathering data for your labor management program. Here are nine potential pitfalls to watch out for.

Inadequate WMS design: If your ultimate objective is to obtain labor management data from your WMS system, the initial design of the program should include the features that will be used for capturing the data. This means that a Phase I Project can save time and money in the long run.

Limited menu options: Increasing the number of menu options will obviously increase the initial cost of the WMS program. Although limiting menu options in the short term might appear cost efficient, in the long term, problems will emerge when capturing Labor management data. Designing the menu option structure without any consideration for labor management is a mistake.

No time and attendance integration: Failure to recognize the need to integrate the time and attendance program with your labor management production data will limit the usefulness of the management information and raise questions concerning differences between reported labor and actual payroll hours. Although additional hardware is normally required to use the T&A program for transfers from one Work Center to another, it’s normally a very good investment if you’re going to use the data for labor management.

Unrealistic time and cost estimates:
Although almost all WMS programs have a basic model, it never seems to fit your operations without significant customized programming. This is even more pronounced when it comes to getting work measurement data which must account for the variability in your processing operations and help create action-oriented reports tailored to your supervisory structure.

Restricted RF sign on:
Unrealistic limitations on the availability of certain RF Menu Options for employees often reduces staffing flexibility. The WMS program should provide menu options that permit employees to transfer from one work center to another without creating a burden to access the appropriate menus. Do not use more access security than is really needed.

Incomplete Productivity Evaluation:
Don’t confuse in-process production guidelines with total productivity evaluation. Taking action on employees falling behind throughout the day is fine, but evaluating employee productivity, for training or disciplinary purposes, requires a much deeper analysis based on at least 100 hours of measured work and a complete employee work measurement history.

Lack of Quality Control:
Quality should not be omitted when evaluating the performance of employees and the total building. The WMS program can be used effectively to collect employee quality data that can be analyzed by the labor management program and included in employee evaluation and incentives.

Out of Control Incentives: To get maximum results from an incentive program, the Incentives should be paid weekly and based on individual performance whenever possible. The incentive program must be equitable to both the company and the Employees and must have adequate impact to encourage supervisors and employees to reach higher levels of productivity without sacrificing quality. Meaningful management reports must be part of the program to ensure that Incentives do not get out of control.

Failure to Use Staff Scheduling: Don’t confuse daily workforce balancing with staff scheduling. Online response to fluctuating workloads is a good technique, but effective scheduling requires estimates days and weeks in advance to prepare for overtime, additional staff, or reductions in staff. Much of the daily balancing will be eliminated if, in the first place, accurate staff schedules are created and followed.

Don Cook is president of Donald B. Cook & Associates, a New Brunswick, NJ-based labor management consulting firm.

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