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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.

angela@oranalysts.com

Blog

Top 10 Tips for Effective Holiday Management

Friday, 08 May 2015 11:45

Strangely enough there is very little literature and information out there about how to manage holidays. This is mainly because the problem is so terrifying that people avoid it and do their best to ignore it in the vain hope that it will go away. And who could blame them, holidays are about more than time off work. Holidays are about; that much anticipated two weeks on the beach, that chance to see your little girl shine in the school play or the opportunity to party at your mates wedding.

  1. Quantify the Problem: Add up how much holiday everyone in your team, department or group is entitled to. Then see how much time there is in the year.
  2. Know your Workload: How many people do you need in each day as a minimum. Are there any days when you don’t need anyone e.g. Bank Holidays. Do you have any especially busy week when no one can have a holiday?
  3. Plan for Christmas: Most people save up their holidays till the end of the year partly to get Christmas off and partly because it’s an insurance policy just in case something comes up at the last minute. So what will happen at Christmas? Can everyone be off? Can no one be off?
  4. Prioritise Summer Holidays: Everyone likes a summer holiday. So how are you going to ensure that everyone can have that all important two week break? Plan it in advance and don’t just wait till the last minute.
  5. Make the most of your Shutdowns: Shutdowns are a great way to use up everyone’s holiday. Many companies shutdown for Bank Holidays, at Christmas or for a week or two during the summer.
  6. Have an Annual Leave Policy: You need a fair and simple set of rules to ensure that everyone can have the holiday of their choice.
  7. Monitor and Record Holiday Bookings: You need a way of recording all your holiday requests and then assessing if you can allow or decline a holiday request. For offices we have designed the Yearly Planner, a simple and cheap solution that allows you to record holiday requests and also tells you how much holiday they have left and who else is off that day. For shift workers we have VisualrotaX, which records all holiday requests, highlights if you are short on shift and can even tell you when you are low on holiday resource.
  8. Create Reports and Printouts: Sharing employee holiday schedules with the team is an easy and effective way to avoid clashes. This empowers your employees to take responsibility for avoiding holiday issues and minimises the number of requests you have to deny. This is why the Professional Yearly Planners   have easy monthly printouts to help your team plan their holiday requests. VisualrotaX has individual calendars so that they know what holidays they have taken and how many they have left till the end of the year. They both also come with graph sheets which display how holidays have been booked over the year. This way you can see at a glance if and when your holiday policy failed during the year. You can also compare each year’s graphs and see how you have improved.
  9. Create a Holiday Calendar: It is not enough to just set up the rules for booking holidays, you need to ensure that it is fair and not open to abuse. If your rules state that it is on a first come first served, what is to stop an employee block booking the last two weeks off in July for the nest 10 years? A Holiday Calendar is there so that the employees and managers, know what is expected of them and when during the year. Then everyone can take the holiday that they are entitled to with the minimum of disruption. It is a list of dates and actions which say when the holiday book will be open for requests and when it will close. When the manger will be processing requests and when they will confirm holiday dates. It is also a great way of focusing people’s minds and ensuring that you will only have to process requests during a few weeks of the year instead of potentially having a new request every day, including when you are on holiday.
  10. Know your Holiday Resource: You don’t have to go short, there are ways of covering for holidays. These can include; overtime, extra staff, borrowing from another department, temporary staff, agency staff, cover shifts etc. You can assess and estimate your holiday resource based on your budget and the holiday entitlement you have to cover.

If you would like to know more about managing your holidays then why not get our e-book Holiday Management available now from Amazon and check out our video on our top 10 tips .

So here are a few tips to help you manage your holiday requests:

  1. Quantify the Problem: Add up how much holiday everyone in your team, department or group is entitled to. Then see how much time there is in the year.

  2. Know your Workload: How many people do you need in each day as a minimum. Are there any days when you don’t need anyone e.g. Bank Holidays. Do you have any especially busy week when no one can have a holiday?

  3. Plan for Christmas: Most people save up their holidays till the end of the year partly to get Christmas off and partly because it’s an insurance policy just in case something comes up at the last minute. So what will happen at Christmas? Can everyone be off? Can no one be off?

  4. Prioritise Summer Holidays: Everyone likes a summer holiday. So how are you going to ensure that everyone can have that all important two week break? Plan it in advance and don’t just wait till the last minute.

  5. Make the most of your Shutdowns: Shutdowns are a great way to use up everyone’s holiday. Many companies shutdown for Bank Holidays, at Christmas or for a week or two during the summer.

  6. Have an Annual Leave Policy: You need a fair and simple set of rules to ensure that everyone can have the holiday of their choice.

  7. Monitor and Record Holiday Bookings: You need a way of recording all your holiday requests and then assessing if you can allow or decline a holiday request. For offices we have designed the Yearly Planner, a simple and cheap solution that allows you to record holiday requests and also tells you how much holiday they have left and who else is off that day. For shift workers we have VisualrotaX, which records all holiday requests, highlights if you are short on shift and can even tell you when you are low on holiday resource.

  8. Create Reports and Printouts: Sharing employee holiday schedules with the team is an easy and effective way to avoid clashes. This empowers your employees to take responsibility for avoiding holiday issues and minimises the number of requests you have to deny. This is why the Professional Yearly Planners have easy monthly printouts to help your team plan their holiday requests. VisualrotaX has individual calendars so that they know what holidays they have taken and how many they have left till the end of the year. They both also come with graph sheets which display how holidays have been booked over the year. This way you can see at a glance if and when your holiday policy failed during the year. You can also compare each year’s graphs and see how you have improved.

  9. Create a Holiday Calendar: It is not enough to just set up the rules for booking holidays, you need to ensure that it is fair and not open to abuse. If your rules state that it is on a first come first served, what is to stop an employee block booking the last two weeks off in July for the nest 10 years? A Holiday Calendar is there so that the employees and managers, know what is expected of them and when during the year. Then everyone can take the holiday that they are entitled to with the minimum of disruption. It is a list of dates and actions which say when the holiday book will be open for requests and when it will close. When the manger will be processing requests and when they will confirm holiday dates. It is also a great way of focusing people’s minds and ensuring that you will only have to process requests during a few weeks of the year instead of potentially having a new request every day, including when you are on holiday.

  10. Know your Holiday Resource: You don’t have to go short, there are ways of covering for holidays. These can include; overtime, extra staff, borrowing from another department, temporary staff, agency staff, cover shifts etc. You can assess and estimate your holiday resource based on your budget and the holiday entitlement you have to cover.

If you would like to know more about managing your holidays then why not get our e-book Holiday Management available now from Amazon.

 

Sailing Close to the Wind

Friday, 24 April 2015 15:13

Have you ever thought about the consequences of the minimum holiday entitlement?

Many companies only give their staff the minimum holiday entitlement. In the UK that would be 20 days plus Bank Holidays. And this is very often how it is stated. This usually means that they get to pick 20 days per year subject to the rules and the other eight are the company’s stated Bank Holidays. However Bank Holidays have no legal status. So what happens when your holiday year starts on the 1st April?

Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017 there is no Easter. In 2016 Easter falls in March and in 2017 it falls in April. Hence some employees may not be getting the minimum holiday entitlement.

So if your company’s holiday year starts around April, you may need to increase people’s holiday entitlements in one year and reduce it in the following year to compensate. Otherwise you will be breaking the law by not giving your employees the opportunity to take the legal minimum holiday entitlement.

Zero Hours Contract

While we are on the subject of ensuring that your staff have the opportunity to take their minimum holiday entitlement, have you ever considered the conundrum of zero hour’s contracts? When you do not give your staff a set number of hours per week, how do you know when they are on holiday or just off? If you only issue your shift pattern on a weekly basis then is a week off a holiday or just a week with no hours? You may think this is just semantics but consider the fact that you cannot just buy holidays. So you can’t just work out how much holiday you owe your staff find a week when you don’t need them and just say “I don’t need you this week so here is your holiday pay to date”.

You have to not only ensure that you are paying the correct amount but also ensure that they are having the opportunity to take their minimum holiday entitlement.

Well here is an obvious solution, plan ahead. Don’t do your shift pattern or rota just a week ahead, but do it for the whole year. It’s a lot easier than you think. You don’t even have to know who is on the rota if you have a large turnover of staff. But by planning ahead, you can schedule shifts, holidays and cover arrangements all upfront. This will not only ensure that you give all your staff the opportunity to take their holidays but also will make your life easier too. To find out more go to our creating a shift pattern page or contact us directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Cover Shifts

Tuesday, 07 April 2015 15:21

 Most absence arrangements use cover shifts, in one form or another. Cover shifts are shifts which are there to cover for absence. They are a way of using Banked Hours in an orderly manner or for ensuring that overtime payments for cover work is fairly distributed. If you do not use a cover arrangement then the result is invariably chaos at times.

Cover shifts can either cover a specific shift or numerous shifts. They can be of a set length, or variable. They can have a requirement that the person comes into work for a nominal time and if not needed leaves, or they are at home unless called in. The circumstances will dictate the cover shifts used.

How many cover shift do you need?Absence table v2

We are often asked how many cover shifts should be scheduled each day. Well that depends on four factors, absence rate, number on shift, number of shifts and ability to run short.

Here is an example, your absence rate is 3%, and you work 12-hour shifts, with three shifts per day and have 12 on shift. Each cover shift can cover all three shifts. (The shifts do overlap) E.g. if there is an absence on the early shift the cover shift, can work it. If there is an absence on the late shift, the cover shift can work it, or if there is an absence on the night shift, the cover shift can work it. But the cover shift can only work one of the shifts.

Therefore the expectation is that on each day 1.08 (12x3x0.03) people will be absent. So most managers would schedule two cover shifts per day. Is this correct?

Let’s look at the probabilities of absence. You need either a brilliant mathematician or our e-book, Understanding Your Absence Rate. Here is an extract of the book on the right.

 

This shows that given three shifts per day, with an absence rate of 3% and 12 on shift you would look at the table for 365 days and 36 on each day. (The cover shifts can cover all three shifts so you look at what the cover shifts can cover not each individual shift). Therefore on 126 days, no one is absent, on 136 days one person is absent, on 72 days two people are absent, on 24 days three people are absent, on six days four people are absent and on one day per year five people will be absent.

Now knowing this, how many would you schedule to be on cover?

Well this will depend on your operation and the cost of running short. If the cost of running one person short for one shift either meant putting lives at risk or a high penalty then you would opt for five on cover each day. Most operations would look at the cost of bringing an extra person in against the potential benefits.

Let’s say that it’s a holidays included operation (just so that I can ignore the holiday complication) and there are 90 people on the shift pattern. Now we can use these probabilities to calculate the number of cover shifts each would have to work, the number of cover shifts they would be scheduled to cover and the probabilities of being called in.

 

Average number of cover shifts

Probability of working cover shift

Probability of running short

Number of missing people

1 cover shift

4

65%

28%

142

2 cover shifts

8

61%

8.5%

39

3 cover shifts

12

34%

2%

8

4 cover shifts

16

26%

0.3%

1

5 cover shifts

20

21%

0%

0

The table shows that if there was one cover shift scheduled per day, then on average each person would be scheduled to be on cover four times per year. On each cover shift they would have a 65% probability of being called in. This would mean that on 28% of the shifts you would be running short. During the course of the year you would expect to be running short by 142 people or 1,704 man-hours per year. That is on 72 days you would be short by one person, on 24 days you would be short by two people, on six days you would be short by three people and on one day per year, you would be short by four people.

Knowing these values how many would you have on cover?

Let’s put in some costs. If each person earns £10 per hour, but on cover they earn £15 per cover shift (time and a half), but the unions also don’t want their members waiting around at home so they are on cover but not called in it costs £5 per shift as a good will gesture. Now let’s assume that we can estimate the cost of one person missing per shift, and we set it at a cost of £500 to the company per shift. (Yes I know complete fabrication, but this is to make it simple.)

So using the table above, having no one on cover would cost, £500x1.08x365=£197,100, one person on cover will cost £15x12x239+£5x126+£500x142=£114,650. So one person on cover has saved the operation £82,450 per year. If two people are on cover per day it will cost £15x12x280+£5x388+£500x39=£71,840. If three people are on cover per day, it will cost, £15x12x352+£5x722+£500x8=£70,970. If four people are on cover per day it will cost, £15x12x376+£5x1084+£500x1=£73,600.

The costs are starting to rise now, so the optimal number would be three on cover per day. So having no cover arrangement would have cost £197,100 per year. Having three people per day on cover would cost £70,970 per year. That is a saving of £126,130 per year.

If you would like to know how many you should have cover per day, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and find out.

 

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