Scheduling Insights: Non-Service or Production Scheduling

Dan Bursik
Vice President of Product Management

When we last discussed Service or Interval-based scheduling we discussed that requirements are clearly associated with activity occurring at specific time intervals (usually 15-minute intervals) through a specific day. Cashiering at a supermarket is a great example. There is no forgiveness for being over in the morning and being short-staffed in the evening. Correct placement at the interval level is critical for providing the associated service to customers.

Not all activities or departments in a retail business work that way. Having steaks cut and ready for customers when they need it, having grocery shelves filled and stocked, having displays look appealing all are necessary parts of retail work planning. However, did that steak need to be cut at 8:15 or could it have been cut at 6:45 or 9:00? Obviously, there are some boundaries on the window to support product freshness, but when it was cut is not nearly as important that it is in the case when it needs to be shopped. There is no direct correlation between the work and exactly when it needs to be done.

Now, I’m an advocate for product freshness and we work with stores to help shape best practices around time of day standards for freshness, merchandising, and inventory levels on hand. Logile’s Day Clock™ visuals have really helped organizations communicate and implement these merchandising expectations better than ever before. But no one will make that argument for a can of peas or a 4-pack of bathroom tissue. When to stock is optional, it’s not tied to the act of customer shopping in the same way that cashiering or bagging in store Front End operations are.

So, if I’ve made the point that some activities do not have a clear timing directly associated with them or implicit in the historical data, I also want to be clear that when you develop a work plan the timing of such activities need to be decided. You might have one store that stocks grocery loads overnight, and another that works the load through the day, and that’s fine. But each store needs to have the activity for grocery stocking defined if you want to create a schedule and an associated work plan to run your store at standard time meeting all built in service, safety, and other expectations. It needs to be defined. Failure to do so will almost always result in lost time, indecision, and unmet expectations. Applied to perishable production, it leads to freshness issues, shrink, and disappointed customers.

Since the interval data is not significant for these Production or Non-Service departments, data is usually captured either at the weekly, or preferably at the daily levels. If you are using POS data to capture the information, then a lead/lag factor might be needed to anticipate when the replenishment for those items sold needs to occur. If a store only gets two deliveries a week, the workload for stocking that load may get distributed over two days, not just one. And stores with limited shelf space may anticipate a certain amount of restocking the day or days after the initial stocking occurs.

Time windows are also typically used to take the time earned and to locate it into the workplan during the appropriate hours. Some activities have multiple time windows. A good work planning system will give you good options to profile the timing to fit your operations.

You will get more details about how this work in upcoming editions of Scheduling Insights as we discuss task-based scheduling, defining task instances, options to distribute daily demand within task windows, task dependencies (you need to unload the truck before you can stock the load) and the staffing parameters that convert raw demand into scheduling requirements.

For now, just keep in mind that different departments have different work planning and scheduling needs. It is important that you have a labor management system that meets the needs for all types of departments that you need to schedule for.

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.