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Operational Research

You can always be more efficient

Operational Research is all about using analysis to improve decision making. Dr Angela Moore uses mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, optimisation, sequencing and scheduling techniques to create simple heuristics you can employ to run your operation more efficiently.

Christmas is Coming

The build up to Christmas has now started in the shops, it won’t be long before “Jingle bells” will be blearing out up and down our high streets. But for Christmas producers it’s a yearlong process with the run up starting back in January, with designs and organising the production and supplies.

“I have been trying to ignore all of those little Christmas bits and pieces which have started to appear in the shops, it makes me feel cold.”

Christmas is one of those events that is not just one day, it’s a seasonal variation that can be felt by nearly every industry. Shops have to change their product lines, and then have sales to get rid of their excess stock. Producers can’t produce things fast enough so overtime goes through the roof. And the poor consumers, have to save up all year, so that they can splash out on the latest gadgets and toys, yet still be broke in January.

Most companies recognise that Christmas is a seasonal variation and will change their operations to account for it. They may change their product lines or sales tactics. But how many have thought of changing their staffing levels to reflect this variation?

Generally, those that do, use overtime. Overtime is wonderful, in the run up to Christmas. Everyone needs that extra money, and during the autumn the weather is poor so they have lots of spare time on their hands.

However you could change your staffing levels over the year and only pay basic rates. It’s simple, you create your shift pattern a year ahead. Then you run the shift pattern so that everyone works a few hours less during part of the year and then a few hours more when you need them. Over all their hours come out the same.

e.g. your staff work a 40 hour week and you have 20 people let’s say. That’s 800 hours per week of work you can expect. Yet your workload has a seasonal variation. So let’s say you make Christmas puddings. They have a very long sale by date. So you would make them from about May to September. So that is about five months of production per year. It would be a continuous production business, so would operate 24/7. The rest of the year you make a few other things so you want a few people around, but for the Christmas puddings period you really need about 1000 hours of production per week. So how do you do it?

Well firstly you look at holidays, as an employer you have control over when your employees have a holiday, so you can have a ban on holidays during your busy periods. However, you need them to work about 50 hours per week, so even banning holidays won’t solve the problem.

So you need to use 12 hour shifts and then they would have to work just over 4 shifts per week. So you would run the operation with a variation of the 554 shift pattern. For 20 week of the year they would work the 554, and six would be in on the day and night shift seven days a week. Then for the other 32 weeks they would work a slightly different variation so that only four of them would be in on each shift. Over the year they would work an average of 40 hours per week.

Variation 554 v1

An example of the annual shift pattern for one person is shown here. January to May they work the 554 with seven days off in between. Then for 20 weeks they work the 554 with just a few days off between blocks of shifts. Between September and December they are back on the 554 with seven days off in-between.

During September to May they get lots of time off and all their holidays, so they can have some great skiing holidays, cruises round the Caribbean, pop over to Australia etc.

This is an easy to implement example, and it can work for any company that has a seasonal variation. If you would like a shift pattern tailored to your personal requirements, why not contact us today and reduce your overtime bill! Email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call us on +44 (0)1636 816466