With SMEs now dominating the UK economy, there’s no doubt they have become bulwarks of the UK economy. Vital to boosting economic productivity, these businesses are naturally always looking for ways to improve their output – and their own profitability. The manufacturing sector last year accounted for 5% of businesses, 10% of employment and 15% of turnover so it’s useful to see what strategies they are using to stay competitive.
In a survey of over 280 manufacturing bosses, the latest National Manufacturing Barometer (October 2017) revealed that most of them are prioritising smarter working practices and better utilisation of existing resources. Schedule-based working is a way of working smarter which is attracting increased attention, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
What is schedule-based working?
Schedule-based working is where specific pre-set working hours of employees are replaced by targets for outputs. The pay-off for employees for finishing tasks early can mean extra time off. The benefits of this approach can be to:
- Incentivise workers to complete their work faster.
- Empower employees to innovate and be creative.
- Throw up new solutions and process improvements.
- Encourage teams to work together cooperatively to achieve their goals more quickly.
Schedule-based working is considered to be an incentive scheme for the individual in the workplace but one which has advantages too for the business – for example, it counteracts ‘presenteeism’ (ie. being present but not productive) and improves employee engagement.
Manufacturing case study
Manufacturers are focussing on their greatest asset – their employees – to improve productivity. Schedule-based working sounds deceptively simple yet it has shown up positive results. Implementing this new way of working has seen significant results recently for one firm.
BAE Systems Maritime Naval piloted schedule-based working at their complex manufacturing facility in Glasgow. A pilot was run as part of the government’s UK Future Programme tackling workforce development challenges and ran from April 2014 to June 2016.
BAE Systems set a weekly schedule of work for staff, incorporating quality, health & safety and other workplace standards. Where the weekly schedule was achieved in less than the working week, employees were free to use the leftover time as they wanted, including going home. However, if the work was not completed, the employees completed the schedule by working additional hours.
Its Head of HR said that the trials resulted in delivering an “unprecedented increase in productivity; on one site, the 17% improvement performance target was met every week for over two years without staff once having to complete a full 37 hour week.” Productivity increased with workers putting in fewer hours. The business also benefited from a behavioral change which saw an increase in discretionary effort and employee motivation.
Schedule-based working is particularly suited to the manufacturing sector due to the type of work it undertakes. While this style of working will not suit all roles in all businesses, it is certainly a new and smarter way of working which SMEs might want to consider.
It’s all part of exploring innovative job design to motivate employees and drive inefficiencies out of the working environment – it’s a great alliance of the firm’s objectives with incentives for employees. What’s more this type of approach chimes with the current emphasis on work-life balance, flexible working and giving employees more control of their working environment.
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