Shifting the dynamics of workforce management


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This article was published in the September issue of Global Cement in 2019.

Algorithmen sind ein wesentlicher Effizienzfaktor für Logistik in der Zementindustrie. Viele Produzenten verlieren jedoch immer noch an Traktion, wenn es darum geht, optimale Schichtpläne für ihr Personal zu erstellen. Dieser Artikel befasst sich mit den neuesten Entwicklungen und Technologien im Bereich Personalmanagement und zeigt, wie diese im gesamten Zementsektor angewendet werden können.

by Dirk Schlemper and Thomas Bergmans, INFORM GmbH, Germany

In the ‘olden days,’ shifting gears was hard work. Back then, commercial trucks came with unsyn­chronised manual transmissions and drivers had to use a method called ‘double-clutching’ to pre­vent damage to the gearbox when changing gears. It took some timing and practice, and it came at the expense of extra work for your left leg. Today, auto-shift gearboxes are commonplace in heavy trucks, and changing gears requires virtually no effort at all. However, when it comes to managing shift work, many manufacturing companies still use old technology that is suited neither to synchronis­ing the competing interests of employee needs and operational objectives, nor providing the planning comfort or intuitive logic of the latest workforce management tools. This often results in expensive overtime, non-productive idle times, lower em­ployee morale, poor customer service and, in a worst case scenario, loss of production. Failing to adequately schedule your workforce can become extremely costly in the long-run. Before we review some potential application areas and benefits within the cement industry, let’s take a look under the hood to explore the basic technology that powers the latest workforce management tools.

DI technology

Not all gearboxes are built the same, which is why there’s a myriad of different and often confusing brand names. The same applies to workforce man­agement: Rostering, staff scheduling, employee logistics, shift planning, resource planning... Almost every organisation has a different term and approach. Employee logistics, however, is quite a fitting term since the latest workforce management tools are based on the same technology that has been deployed in the building materials industry for over 25 years to optimise the use of logistics as­sets: Operations Research (OR) and algorithms. In the mid-1990s, Redlands in France (now Lafarge­Holcim) was an early adopter in the aggregates and ready-mix business. Six years later, Hanson Australia (part of the HeidelbergCement Group), followed. Both have been using algorithms, real-time infor­mation and automated decision-making to run their fleets of trucks ever since.

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