Contact Details

If you require further information on any of our services please do not hesitate to contact us by telephone or e-mail. All enquiries are extremely welcome.

T: 01636 816 466

The Old Vicarage
Station Road, Rolleston
NG23 5SE                              

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.


Booking Holidays

Friday, 29 May 2015 00:00

In the world of booking holidays at the click of a button, we have so much more choice. We can hunt out that bargain online and then spend the whole holiday bragging about how much we saved. This really does happen. I went on a cruise last year and everyone wanted to know how much I’d paid for it in comparison to them. “I got so much spending money on my cabin!” “I got £X off mine by booking early!” “I got up graded and have my own butler for just £Y” fortunately I got a third off by booking at the last minute. But it wasn’t easy.

cruse boat


Firstly I was trying to book with a group of friends, one of whom is on a shift pattern and had to check with his manager and colleagues that he could get the time off. The rest of us were all ready with our available dates and so when it came to booking could say “Yeah” or “Nay” there and then. The shift worker couldn’t.

So Monday we find a great deal and call up everyone, “can you go on these dates?” We narrowed it down but the shift worker was all “I need to check at work first.”

So Tuesday the price has gone up, it is now £50 each extra, but still with in budget. But the shift worker still hasn’t got clearance. So another day goes by.

Wednesday the offer is all over the news, with big TV advertisements on their sale. So the price is now £200 pounds extra each and out of our budget. We had missed the boat literally.

So months go by and then at the last minute the cruse is offered for less than the price it started at. I knew what dates my friends were available so, it took us a few hours of phone calls and checks and then we had the cruise of our dreams at a third off. However we had learned our lesson, the shift worker didn’t come with us. He and his girlfriend missed out on the holiday.



So what is the moral of my tale? If you want to get the best holiday deals then you need to be ready with your holiday dates and not have to faff around checking with your manger. The solution is a holidays included shift pattern. Basically you have all your holidays included in the pattern up front for the whole year. This usually gives you about 15-30 weeks off on a 12-hour shift schedule. That means that you can go on-line or to the travel agent with your dates and get the best deals. You don’t have to check with managers, or tell people what you are doing. The whole thing is private. When you have finished work you just go home. No pleading to have this time off, or telling your manager your entire life history. No, you know when they want you at work and the rest of the year is your time.

sunset at sea


Also if you really have to change dates, you can. You just swap shifts. Just get one of your many colleagues to swap. With up to 30 weeks off per year there is always going to be someone who will swap with you.

To find out more about Holiday Management please follow the link.


Should You Work Less Hours?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:53

During the course of a shift, you will inevitably get fatigued and your work will suffer. We all make mistakes and the rate of making the mistakes can be measured. At the start of the shift for the first few hours, research has shown that the error rate is stable. This is what we could expect, and employers expect this to continue throughout the whole shift. We have yet to find an employer that says it is ok to make more mistakes at the end of the shift than at the start, they expect consistency throughout the shift but that is not what happens unfortunately. After a few hours of working, the error rate between breaks increases dramatically. Whilst this is not what an employer would like to see from their workers, there is a comparable situation to this experienced by everyone, that is: taking exams! Exams involve the usual set of skills we expect from employees, vigilance, memory, deductive reasoning and accuracy. Hence we often employ staff based on the exams they have passed and their grades. Many exams are set at the 75 minute level (plus the advice to spend 15 minutes correcting the answers) for the simple reason that longer exams involving more questions produce worse results. At work however, we often find breaks set at long intervals, say after 3 or 4 hours.

Working less hours is a good idea depending on the type of work you are doing. If you are doing original mental work e.g. learning a new skill, creating a new product or process, you need short days. From a mental fatigue point of view you need to limit your employees to about 5 hours. After 5 hours their mental processes start to slow down and they make mistakes or can't retain information as well. Therefore any work they do after the 5 hours just has to be repeated the following day. Which eats into the five hours of the following day and create a vicious circle.

I always tell my clients that you have to match the length of the shift to the type of work you are doing. If you are doing creative, original work then you need to limit their days. There is a reason why the school day is 5-hours!

If you are doing repetitive mental work then you just need regular breaks to reduce your fatigue. Think of Air Traffic Controllers, they have to have a break after 2 hours. This is to keep them mentally alert and then they are less prone to make mistakes and it keeps their reaction times up. Then there is TV presenters on live shows. No show goes on for more than 2 hours, because even with advert breaks the presenters get fatigued. Films and plays are also limited to about 2 hours. This is because the audience stops engaging after this time.

So it is not just about the length of the shift, but also the breaks on a shift and the type of work you are asking people to do.


Shift Names

Monday, 18 May 2015 20:17

When you are creating a shift schedule we recommend that you name each of your shifts, rather than write out the start and finish times. There are a few reasons for doing this:

  • Minimises the number of shifts you are using
  • Harder to make a mistake
  • Simplifies the calculations
  • Simplifies the creative process when creating a shift pattern
  • Easier to see at a glance when people are working
  • Easier to see at a glance if you are short and when
  • Easier for recording absence and holidays

Basically you don’t want a schedule that is too complicated. If you use too many shifts, it will take you at least a year to rotate through everyone. You want a shift schedule that allows everyone to work similar shifts to a pattern. If you have 20-30 different shifts and there are seven days per week, then it will take almost a year for everyone to just work each shift once on each day of the week (depending on the lengths of the shifts). So you don’t get a pattern when every day everyone is working a different shift.

Then for each shift you use you need a holiday equivalent, a sickness equivalent, an absence equivalent, and overtime equivalent, etc. By the time you are finished you have over 100 different shifts! There are not that many letters in the alphabet so your shift pattern looks more like somebody emptied a tin of alphabet spaghetti onto a piece of paper than a schedule. Then you can’t just glance at it and say yes on Monday we can do the workload because we have the correct people in at the correct times. You end up guessing continuously.

Less is more when it comes to shifts. Start off with three or four. Then you will still end up with over ten but at least you will have a shot at remembering what they mean.

Some people just have the start and finish times because it all just gets so complicated. But then you don’t know what that means and it is so easy to miss type a number. So does 9:00-16:00 mean a seven hour shift, and do they get paid for the full seven hours or are breaks unpaid? What job are they doing? If you have a list of people with start and finish times can you say quickly how many will be there at 12:00 or do you have to go down the list and individually add it up? What happens if they want to take it as a holiday, or if they are sick? Shift names make things a lot easier.


The rota above is a real rota. If you were to glance at that quickly you would have no idea what was going on. There are shift names in some slots and times in others. You don’t know how many hours they are working and if asked who is covering lunch or working this evening, you would be hard pressed to answer without studying the rota for a good five minutes.

So what is a good shift name?

The shift name should sum up what the shift is, e.g. D for Day shift, E for Early shift. Then you can add letters for holidays and sickness, e.g. HD for Holiday on a Day shift. Also always display a table with the shift schedule giving the start and finish times of the shifts. This way if anyone is unsure or you haven’t memorised the shift names you can see quickly and simply what they are. If you can also add a count for each day per shift, then you will always know how many will be on. Here is a list of popular shift names:

A Afternoon

B Back shift

C Cover

D Day

E Early

H Holiday

L Late

M Morning

N Night

S Sick

T Training

W Weekend

U Auxiliary

V Vacation

Then you can combine the names e.g. WD Weekend Day, SN Sick Night. Or add numbers e.g. D2 for Day shift with skill 2. Sometimes I add a letter after the main shift letter to indicate length e.g. DL for Long Day shift or NS for Short Night. The type of shift always goes first. Or D9 could be a Day shift starting at 9am.

Shift Pattern 1

The shift schedule above shows how the shift pattern looks in VisualrotaX. As you can see the shift table at the top shows you how many are working on each shift each day, the start and finish times of the shift and adds up all the hours. That way you know how many are on each day on each shift. At a glance you can see there are three people there during lunch time on week days and two on at weekends.

If you would like to find out more about creating a shift pattern please click here for more information.

If you would like to contact us about shift scheduling please email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  


Page 10 of 24