Our manufacturing team are a formidable, diverse and hardworking bunch. Their work is often hard, physical and demanding to meet tight timescales and their efforts often go unseen by our customers; but without their commitment we couldn’t realise amazing projects that add real social value to communities across the UK.

To support our new products and services, our senior management team laid down the gauntlet to increase production (and efficiency!)… and as we sat down to discuss options little did we think that our Production Team Leader’s immediate response would be that “we should consider working less!”.

Taken aback, I quickly collected my jaw off the floor…rightly or wrongly we’d anticipated a generic discussion about new materials, equipment or overtime to meet our challenge….but here’s what Andy (our Team Leader) said instead: –

“Our team work a 39 hour week. Every day we open up and I’m getting here 20 minutes earlier than the rest of the team to do that. I’ll flick the lights on, turn on the heating in the welfare areas, check the workplace over and await our operatives. They’ll arrive at work, change into their uniform, clock in and start work; we’ll have our daily briefing for 20 minutes (where we discuss quality, safety, deliveries etc.) and then, after I’m comfortable to start work properly they’ll actually start their graft.

Through the day, we’ll take mid morning comfort breaks for tea and a a break at lunch pausing work to transit to the canteen and then to top it off, at the end of the shift we will finish production 20 minutes before the shift ends to clean down and re-stock for the next day.

Every so often we need to upgrade facilities to suit a new product and undertake maintenance work to our equipment which affects my production targets so that’s often undertaken at a weekend or evening which, if you didn’t realise, attracts a premium cost from suppliers and in honesty, it’s just not convenient or efficient to open up and send in a manager to supervise this work.”

he continued….

“…..and then there’s my team, parents with children, friends who have interests outside of work. They turn up Monday to Friday as we ask and they’re paying to get to work, a lot are paying for childcare to be here too and all this to suit working 39 hours across 5 days because that’s what everyone else does……..HOW ABOUT WE JUST DO THE SAME HOURS BUT OVER 4 DAYS?

The penny dropped and the decision was made…. “Let’s do it!”

We’re 2 months into our 4 Day Condensed Week – Monday to Thursday with Fridays non-working. So has it made any difference? Good or Bad? Here’s what we know…

The Big Wins

1. Our metrics for production show an overall improvement in output by circa 10% based on the same hours worked in a 4 day week vs. a 5 day week.

2. Our downtime has reduced as we’re limiting opening up and closing down and whilst the daily break times have increased to suit the longer shift, the downtime transiting to breaks has also decreased.

3. Our supply chain have bought in, with the vast majority of supply chain partners working the 4 day week alongside our team having also seen the benefits.

4. The business operation benefits financially from the efficiency, but with less transport costs our team also have more pounds in their pocket by the end of the week.

5. Friday is used by our Manufacturing Managers to plan the upcoming week, undertake maintenance and re-stock.

6. Our customer’s quotations are now reflecting the efficiencies in savings as we pass the benefits back in reduced build costs; offsetting the rate rise we anticipated for 2019 as a result of increasing our company pension contributions!

7. 4 parents get to drop their children off at school and collect them on Fridays, reducing childcare commitments by around £35 a day per family… along with multiple wins for work life balance with team members spending quality time with friends on activities outside of work with their new found spare time.

8. We’re recording less sick days!

And the challenges?

• Extending the benefit to our wider team – we’d love to develop business specific strategies to extend the same condensed hours approach for our office and site based teams! We’d love to hear your ideas on how we can deliver this in the wider 5 day a week world!

• Gearing up to deliver more – as our production increases with our order book we’ll look at further shifts, overtime and flexible working whilst remaining true to our new condensed work approach.

• Spotting trends in performance – whilst the obvious signs are good, we’re not claiming a silver bullet success story just yet, it’s far too premature…..Our customer experience, the quality of our product and the ongoing engagement, happiness and health of our workforce will remain our key priority; backed up with data to support this!

And before I sign off…..what about Andy our Production Team Leader?…Well, he’s taking a key and extended role within our business helping us to find ways of overcoming industry challenges with new thinking…and he also continues to win the respect with our manufacturing team through his incredible leadership.

Who said work based happiness and productivity needed to be mutually exclusive!?

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