Scheduling Insights: Four Basic Types of Scheduling

Dan Bursik
Vice President of Product Management

In this edition of Scheduling Insights, we will be building on our discussion of the lifecycle of a labor schedule.

Given that you now have a good foundation in the terms and process steps from forecasting to demand planning to staff planning to scheduling, it’s a good time to discuss different types of scheduling. In this edition, I will lay out the basics for understanding the 4 most prevalent types of scheduling you will want to understand for retail scheduling, so we can discuss the needs and process for orchestrating good solutions for each of these very different types of scheduling challenges.

My focus here will be primarily on scheduling for retail, including all types of retailing from grocery to big box to specialty retailing. If you are scheduling for another type of business, hang in there, as the needs of retail cover a wide range of scheduling strategies for most other business segments too.

Let’s start by understanding the four most distinct types of workplan modeling and scheduling for retail that derive from the type of work you are scheduling. I will also provide an example of each.

  1. Service or Interval-based scheduling (Cashiering in a Front-End checkout at a supermarket)
    This approach applies to a type of work where the labor demand is aligned directly with dynamic volume as is the case for cashiering or bagging in larger retail environments where that work is performed mostly by dedicated employees.
  1. Production or Non-Service Scheduling (Stocking on an overnight stock crew at a big box store)
    This approach applies to volume work that can be quantified in total but the timing of when the work needs to be performed is not directly associated with interval forecast data. The business could elect to do this work when customers are present or might use overnight or low volume hours to perform this work. Timing for this work is flexible and must be configured within scheduling parameters.
  1. Service and Production Scheduling (Clerking in a deli department at a supermarket)
    This approach is a hybrid mix of our first two approaches where some work is directly associated with customer or item traffic as captured within the interval data, but other work components may be defined and patterned into the schedule where you choose to do the work. Some production work may be used to fill in the valleys, or low points, in the service work. However, as volume gets larger this may require a greater separation of duties and specialization which allow the service and production functions to be staffed independently of one another.
  1. Coverage or Workstation Fill Scheduling (Staffing a Manager on Duty in a large retail store)
    There are numerous jobs where a workstation must be filled for a defined time regardless of volume. In some businesses a Manager on Duty follows this strategy, although other business may choose to base that on volume. Receiving clerks, layaway counters, service desks, greeters, security clerks and bookkeepers are examples of jobs that can often be scheduled in this manner. This is a simple matter to define and to schedule, but you may want to be sure that your approach allows for flexible configuration of shifts for full and part time employees depending on the composition of your workforce. If you use a “fixed shift” approach rather than defining your requirements, then not all associates may have the ability to work the particular shift length you define.

These quick examples illustrate that different types of scheduling are required for different store functions or different departments.

Remember back when your dad or mom or buddy told you how important it was to use the right tool for the right job?  Well that insight into home maintenance also applies to scheduling. And, it’s a big reason why many organizations fail to bring the benefits of automated scheduling to all portions of their business (what we often refer to as “wall to wall scheduling”).

The fact is, most systems are designed to handle only one or two of these scheduling types. So, it is essential that you understand your business needs and use the right tools (processes and applications) to understand your forecast work volumes and translate those work volumes (e.g., cases, items, customers, fitting room occurrence, etc.) through effective demand planning and staff planning to create your final scheduling requirements.

Each of these scheduling approaches can be implemented at different levels – scheduling at the department, job code, or task level are all possibilities. We will get to that topic too.

In our next edition, we will take a deeper dive into the most universal type of scheduling in retail:  Service or Interval-based scheduling.

In his series, Scheduling Insights, Dan Bursik provides insights and strategies around effective retail labor scheduling, addressing a diverse array of challenges and topics. To read the previous edition, click here. To search for all editions of Scheduling Insights, click here.