Harmonized operator workload thanks to better planning with JITbase

Overcome the Labor Shortage: Do You Know the Workload of Your Operators?

In today's manufacturing landscape, the cry of labor shortage is a common refrain. Companies across the globe struggle to find skilled workers to operate machinery and maintain production lines. However, before we delve deeper into the issue of labor shortage, it's essential to address a critical question: Do you truly understand the workload of your current operators? Without a clear grasp of this, the perceived labor shortage might be exacerbated by inefficiencies and mismanagement.

Understanding Operator Workload

The workload of operators in a manufacturing environment encompasses various tasks such as machine operation, maintenance, quality checks, and troubleshooting. Often, the intensity and complexity of these tasks are underestimated by management, leading to misaligned expectations
and strained resources.
 
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Here’s why understanding the workload is crucial:

  1. Preventing Burnout: Overworked employees are more prone to burnout, leading to high turnover rates. Understanding their workload helps distribute tasks more evenly, ensuring no one is overwhelmed.
  2. Optimizing Efficiency: Analyzing the workload can reveal inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the production process. Addressing these can improve overall productivity without necessarily increasing headcount.
  3. Enhancing Morale: Operators who feel their workload is fair and manageable are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, leading to higher morale and better performance.
  4. Accurate Labor Forecasting: Knowing the exact workload allows for better labor forecasting and scheduling, ensuring that labor resources align with production needs.
  5. Better Machine-to-Operator Ratio: By knowing each operator’s workload you can assign more responsibility to operators with low workload allowing them to manage multiple machines at the same time, thereby increasing productivity without increasing labour costs.

Assessing Operator Workload

1. Data Collection and Analysis

The major challenge in predicting operator workload is knowing the estimated durations of each task, which is generally not accessible. Indeed, in standard production software, such as ERP, MES, MRP or APS, only the adjustment time and the total production cycle are recorded. 

During production, manual tasks which correspond to 80% of operators' working time are not recorded: time allocated for an M00 (planned stoppage in machining), time allocated for quality control, time allocated for a part change or a tool change, etc. These tasks are too micro for ERP, MES, MRP and APS, so there is no visibility in these systems whose goal is to manage higher-level operations.

In lean manufacturing practices, times can be timed manually in order to understand the standard time for each operation. Generalized at the factory level, this practice represents a Herculean task, realistically difficult if not impossible to implement and above all to maintain.

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This is where JITbase takes place, by collecting these times in a 100% automated way, using machine data. Thus, it is possible to have a view of all manual interventions carried out by operators or machinists in production:

  • Setup Times
  • Changeover Times
  • Planned Stops (M00)
  • Inspection Times
As JITbase collects this data we build up a repository of information which can then be used to predict upcoming tasks for the operators and predict their workload for a shift.

2. Analyze the Data to Improve CNC Program Standard Times

Once JITbase has collected sufficient data it is possible to use our analysis tools to improve the standard times for your CNC programs.
 
If you simulate your programs with simulation software like Vericut or NCSIMUL, you will notice that the cycle times for tools are generally a little longer than estimated. Collecting and analyzing tool data in JITbase allows you to have precise production times, almost to the second. It is also possible to become aware of recurring unplanned stoppages on a specific tool pass, or other problems where the operator must intervene in an unplanned manner.
 
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The standard times of each M00 in the program as well as the part change times can also be analyzed in detail, with access to minimum, median and average times.
 
To learn more about it:
 

By improving the standard times of your programs JITbase will be able to provide more accurate operator workload values and estimated job completion times.


3. Plan Upcoming Work

3.1 Reassign Work to Balance Workload

By using JITbase’s Scheduling and Workforce Management tool you are able to import your upcoming work from your ERP and visualize the jobs and operator workload on a timeline. Thanks to the data recorded on manual tasks, the daily production plan in JITbase makes it possible to visualize all the interventions of operators during the shift, and above all to calculate their workload, according to the number of machines they manage and the productions that run on each machine.
 

Operator workload is a key indicator for making decisions on resource allocation on machines: 

  • If the workload is too heavy, it is desirable to reduce the number of machines managed by an operator, so as not to affect performance and introduce numerous machine stoppages.
  • If the workload is too low, this helps detect opportunities where the operator could manage an additional machine, help an overloaded operator, or simply perform related tasks.
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Using workload to make production scheduling decisions allows you to: 

  • Maximize the number of machines managed by an operator, by detecting operator underloads
  • Avoid productivity issues where an operator is overworked
  • Harmonize the workloads of all operators
 

3.2 Smart and dynamic Operator Allocation

The reality of planning is rarely the reality of production. It is therefore essential to be able to adjust the production plan, almost in real time, depending on production hazards and emergencies that arise during the day.

Connected to the machines, the JITbase workforce planning and management tool updates in real time, based on actual production progress. It is therefore possible to readjust the assignment of operators throughout the shift, to maintain the highest possible level of productivity.

JITbase Machine Connectivity-2
 

The allocation of operators to machine tools is no longer done at random, based on perceptions, but rather on a precise KPI performance indicator: the workload of the operators.

To learn more about it:

 

Supervisors who are generally in charge of daily planning and resource allocation on machines can now couple their expertise and experience with factual data that can guide them on essential decisions with a strong impact on the overall productivity of the plant. factory.


Conclusion

The labor shortage in the manufacturing industry is a genuine concern, but it's essential to look inward before seeking external solutions.
 
Understanding and managing the workload of your operators can reveal hidden efficiencies and opportunities for improvement. By accurately assessing and addressing workload issues, you can enhance productivity, improve employee satisfaction, and potentially alleviate the perceived need for additional labor.
 
In most cases, CNC operators are underutilized and actually have the capacity to manage more machines at once, if it is smartly done with analytics.
Operator workload in JITbase

By being able to accurately calculate workloads based on the number of machines managed and the production runs on each machine, you can optimize the allocation of operators, which allows you to increase the average number of machines managed per operator, improve productivity and improve employee satisfaction.

Thanks to an improved human/machine ratio, the perceived need for additional labor is mitigated, which will reduce your challenges related to hiring and shortages of machinists and operators.

In an industry where every minute counts, taking the time to understand and optimize operator workload is not just beneficial—it's essential for sustaining growth and competitiveness in the face of labor challenges. So, before you lament the labor shortage, take a closer look at the workload of your operators and make the necessary adjustments to build a more efficient and resilient workforce.
 
Address the shortage of machinists by optimizing the management of your labor: