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Scheduling Insights: Service and Production Scheduling

So far, we have covered two of the four most common approaches to scheduling. The first was service-based scheduling, which is also known as interval-based scheduling. We discussed supermarket cashiers and baggers as examples of this where the activity is closely tied to the specific day and time interval when the work occurs. You cannot do the work ahead and excess service in the morning does not offset inadequate service in the afternoon.

The second approach was non-service or production scheduling. This is where data are captured at a daily or weekly level. Also, the timing of the work activity, as associated with the volume driver demand (e.g., cases stocked), must be defined rather than implicitly tied to historical data. Grocery stocking is a good example.

Our third scheduling approach is a composite of our first and second. Think about a supermarket deli operation, particularly during the evening hours. Much of the deli work is tied to servicing customers with the data (e.g., customers served, or pounds of product handled) tied to the exact timing of when those customers require service.

However, many know that deli is a very intensive department that requires multitasking. In between serving customers at the service counter, deli clerks perform fixed or variable production tasks. Some of those tasks are scheduled at specific times, while others are intentionally executed amid the flow of customers. That dynamic, the combination of interval-specific work along with non-interval specific production tasks, is what makes for this service and production scheduling approach.

I note this because many retail and specialty retail departments rely on this versatile blend of on-demand customer service tasks in accordance with production, cleaning or preparation tasks in the background. Some systems handle service tasks well, others handle service tasks or production departments only, but few systems handle both within the same department – and it makes a big difference.

If your system doesn’t do this exceptionally, the system may force you to break the department in two and complete separate planning for the “front of the house” (the service portion) and the “back of the house” (the production portion). Yet, it will fall short of the optimization you can get with a system that is designed to support both scheduling types within the same department.

As one learns with the basic tools of carpentry, home maintenance or auto repair, you want to use the right tool for the right job or you will probably bash your thumb, bruise your knuckles, or wish you bought the better toolbox when you did. In our next post, we will introduce the fourth most common scheduling approach. Then, we can move into more detailed discussions on specific system features.

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.

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