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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.


Ryanair's Holiday Problem

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 15:14

If you are one of the many passengers affected by Ryanair’s pilot holiday problems, you may be wondering how a big company like Ryanair can have messed up. However, many companies do not have any control over holidays. And the bigger the company is the worse it is. If you think about how holidays are controlled in your own company, would you consider that they made sure that every person took their full holiday entitlement each year?

If everyone isn’t forced to take their holiday in a controlled manner than situations like Ryanair having to cancel lots of fights will happen again and again. That is because the majority of people are disorganized and like to take their holidays at a time that is convenient to them and not to the company.


So, if your company is worried about holidays what can you do about it?

Most managers don’t have a clue how to manage holidays. That is because nobody teaches them about holiday. So they make it up as they go along. Which for the majority is fine, as Ryanair said after 1st November the problem goes away because of the lighter workload.

However, as an efficiency expert, I am horrified at that response. That tells me that they have no holiday management plans in place and they are current over staffing at the wrong times. Which is stupid, they are an airline company. They know what their workload is because (and this is a very big reason) they set the schedule. They say how many planes they are going to fly, when and where months in advance. This means that they can plan their staff according. They have all the data, they can run a more efficient and cost-effective operation so easily and then either make more profit or lower their prices even more.

At the end of the day if you want to reduce your cost significantly, you need to reorganise your staff. It really is that simple. I can go in to a company, assess their workload, then set up a rota that will match the operation. At the same time, I set up holiday management plans, absence plans and training systems. This means that you end up with a low-cost solution that works.

So if you want to give a consistent level of service, have a holiday management plan.

If you want to reduce your costs, have a holiday management plan.

If you want your people to be where, you want them, when you want them, then have a holiday management plan.

It really is that simple. Here is my book: Holiday Management



Fundraising via Team Building

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 11:32


Are you tired of your company spending thousands on forcing people to make bridges out of straws, fall over each other and sing happy, clappy songs in the name of team building, then why not try something different?

You could do something for your favorite charity instead. Volunteer your group for a day at a local charity. Cleaning up the grounds for example. Gets everyone working together to help the community and they get to do all of those team building skills too. So, you select one to be the team leader, a sub team leader, just like on the Apprentice. Have them work out where they will get tools, see if they can work out what is appropriate clothing for a day of gardening. And all it will cost the company is a day of training.

Garden v1

If you want to do something a little more ambitious then what about a fundraising event. This will cost you a lot more time and money but then they get a lot more experience. You could do something simple like a coffee morning. That is nice and easy, get a venue and marketing team and give them a few hours to organise the event. They get to learn budgeting skills, marketing skills, and you have to do minimal effort. Then you just need to have the cakes and the coffee made on the morning. Send them all off for a baking course the day before or give them a budget for cake buying as see what they come up with. Do they know how to make tea and coffee for 100 people or is there a queue waiting for the kettle to boil? (This is not an exaggeration I have been to events and waited 10 minutes for a cup of coffee since 10 people wanted it and they had to boil the kettle twice! Good job some people settled for cold drinks.)

Or you could be more ambitious. This week I organized a Royal Tea Party for Cancer Research UK. A wonderful charity and last year I joined my local fundraising committee. So if you need help organizing an event I suggest that you contact your local committee of your chosen charity and ask for help and advice on setting up a fundraising event.

So, I decided that my event would be a tea party with a speaker. Having been to lots of charity talks over the years I had a good idea of what is a good speaker. Firstly, think about your audience and pick appropriately, e.g. a motivational speaker in a tracksuit is not appropriate as a speaker for successful bankers and academics. Than you need to think of someone people will pay to see and thirdly you want them to go away happy so they will give more money and come back to your events. So, there was one name that stuck in my head as witty, interesting and would appeal to a large audience. Hence, I gave William French, a Falkland’s veteran, butler to the Royal Family and other celebrities, a call. You can see why he would appeal to large audiences, those interesting in the military, the Royal Family and film stars would want to listen. But the real reason I asked him was that he is a very good speaker with a great story to tell.

william French

So, I had my speaker, now I needed a venue. I went for my local theatre (which is also a charity), a lovely old theatre called the Robin Hood Theatre. A real gem, which helped me loads in organizing the event. Then there was advertising, amazing how much free publicity you can get for interesting charity events, in newspapers and on local radio. Food I organized and got for the Cancer Research committee, (great set of bakers), local WI and a few other contacts. Raffle prizes I begged off everyone.

On the day, the committee stepped in once again to help me in the kitchen and selling raffle tickets, the theatre helped me in the box office and with lighting. Within 4 hours we set up, got everyone into their seats, laughed over William’s life story, stuffed people with cake, delighted half the crowd with prizes and cleaned up. We raised over £1,300 for Cancer Research UK.

Now doesn’t that sound like more fun than your typical team building exercise?



Tuesday, 11 April 2017 15:48

 Easter is just around the corner and for many people, they will be looking forward to an extra-long weekend. For most, they will be off for four days, some may be off for 4.5 days. And some may decide to extend this with their precious holidays and have a week or two off to enjoy the sun.

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But for those on a shift pattern, Easter is just another day. That is both good and bad depending upon how you look at it. After all if you are on the right shift pattern, then you might enjoy a long weekend every other week. Some people might even have a five-day weekend, 26 times per year, before holidays. True, they have to work on the other 26 weekends, but there are other benefits to shift work, like the money, and more days off.

For those on a holidays included shift pattern, you might not be able to pick the exact week you have off, but with about 30 weeks off per year, does it really matter if you are off the first or the last week in August?

So what should you look for in a shift pattern if your time off is important to you?

First of all, consider the weekends. If you are on an 8-hour shift pattern, then you are looking at one weekend off in four, but that is normally a long weekend (Friday-Sunday). If you are on a 12-hour shift pattern, then you have far more weekends off per year. Approximately 26 per year before holidays. But there are shift patterns out there which have split weekends. The 4on-4off, arguably the most used shift pattern in the world (for 12-hour shifts), only gives you 13 whole weekends off per year. It also gives you 20 split weekends per year.

The best shift patterns for the weekends are the 232, which has alternating three day weekends, and the 554, which has 26 weekends off per year, all of them are five-day weekends. That is before holidays. With holidays, you are looking at about 31 weekends off per year depending on your holiday allowance.

The second thing to consider with a shift pattern is fatigue, what is the point of a long weekend if you are too tired to enjoy it? There are a lot of different factors that go into fatigue. But your shift pattern can make a big difference to how tired you feel. In general, there is nothing wrong with regularly working seven consecutive shifts. Provided that your work is not mentally or physically draining and you have regular breaks. What will make you feel drained is single days off (avoid like the plague), starting too early or finishing too late, inadequate rest breaks between shifts etc.

Then there are holidays. How do you maximise your time off? What you want is quality time off, not the odd day here and there.

So on the 4on-4off sift pattern, 6-days (days not 12-hour shifts) will get you 12-days off (4-rest days, 4-shifts of holiday, 4-rest days). 12-days will get you 20-days off (4-rest days, 4-shifts of holiday, 4-rest days, 4-shifts of holiday, 4-rest days).

On the 232 shift pattern, 3-days of holiday will get you 7-days off (2-rest days, 2-shifts of holiday, 3-rest days). ~10- days of holiday will get you 16-days off (2-rest days, 2-shifts of holiday, 3-rest days, 2-shifts of holiday, 2-rest days, 3-shifts of holiday, 2-rest days).

On the 554 shift pattern, ~7-days of holiday will get you 13-days off (4-rest days, 5-shifts of holiday, 4-rest days). ~13- days of holiday will get you 23-days off (5-rest days, 4-shifts of holiday, 5-rest days, 5-shifts of holiday, 4-rest days).

However, if you really want to have some nice long breaks regularly, you can’t beat a holidays included shift pattern. On a holidays included shift pattern you are looking at one week off each month. You can have a two-week holiday in the Summer. Sometime people want a two-week holiday at Easter too. That way they get two long breaks while the weather is good, and you can have two weeks abroad, and two weeks at home each year, as well as a few one week breaks.

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So you are look at about 10-30 weeks off per year, depending on your holiday allowance and the chosen shift pattern. On average a holidays included shift pattern will give you the best time off for your holidays because they combine your rest days and holidays to give you good quality time off.

However, the real benefit of a holidays included shift pattern is not the amount of time off, it’s the privacy and freedom. When you are on a holidays included shift pattern, your time off is your own. You don’t have to tell the company what you are doing on your time off any more than an office worker would tell their boss what they do at weekends. Your time off is your own. You also know when you will and more importantly when you won’t be working, months or even years in advance. So you can plan your life. So when it comes to commitments outside of work, you can say when and when you will not be available. You can book your holiday when it is convenient to you, and not after you have asked for permission.

So this weekend, while you are enjoying the Easter sunshine, consider how every other weekend you could be enjoying a long weekend. 


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