Dear Fraternity,
I am currently working as a Management trainee for a pharmaceutical company at its factory location. Would like to request experienced HR professionals to share their process to determine the required manpower for Primary & Secondary Packing areas, when the production keeps fluctuating on a daily basis.
A brief overview: Manpower Plan for a day is prepared a day in advance by the Packing-Section Head based on the product, batch-size, packing style, leaflets, taping etc. using historical data. Sometimes, due to machine breakdown or technical challenges during the night shift on a particular packing line, production comes to a halt. Next day, in the morning, Section-Head intimates HR to reduce the manpower to half. When we inform the same to the Contractor, he gets frustrated as some of his employees will have to go empty handed. So sometimes, we have to engage rest of them in some other work to be in a win-win situation.
a) Requesting you to suggest any better ways to calculate manpower required and ways to optimize manpower.
b) What could be done to come up with a robust process to determine workmen required for every shift, while also adhering to the principles of Lean Management?
Many thanks in advance !

From India, Vadodara
Dinesh Divekar
Business Mentor, Consultant And Trainer
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Dinesh Divekar

Dear Kebb

Prima facie, the problem appears to have caused because of the planning for the next day. I recommend you start planning for the week at least if not a fortnight.

I prefer to look at your issue from the "Production Planning and Scheduling" point of view. This raises the following questions:

1. Have the various packing processes been standardised?

2. What tools of production planning and scheduling are being used by the packing personnel? What needs improvement?

3. How do you measure the skill level of the employees? Have you done any standardisation?

Replies to your Questions: - The replies to both the questions could be learning tools of scheduling like Gantt Charting, theory sequencing etc.

Additional Comments: - You have written that " Sometimes, due to machine breakdown or technical challenges during the night shift on a particular packing line, production comes to a halt. Next day, in the morning, Section-Head intimates HR to reduce the manpower to half."

Machine breakdown or other technical challenges are common. However, your major challenge arises from this breakdown. Therefore, have you measured the machine downtime? What is the percentage and what efforts are being to reduce the downtime?

To avoid the lay off of the workers, you may identify the scope of the automation of the manual processes. It may appear costly but if you can calculate the breakeven point and convince management how they can recover their investment.

One more solution is to multi-skill the employees.

Lastly, can you reduce the pace of packing? Keep a fewer number of workers. This will prolong the cycle time of the packing process but if it ok to your management then it is worth doing so. If at all the inventory of the finished goods is going to remain idle (at the warehouse of the finished goods) then 1-2 days delay should not matter.

By the way, just to apprise you that I conduct the training programme on "Production Scheduling". Hence my above suggestions and observations.


Dinesh Divekar


From India, Bangalore

Production Planning and Control occupies a primary place in factory production
Production department will need to streamline its planning process and schedule material,labour properly.
Past data and secured orders can be the tools to plan how many machines,labour,tools etc are needed.
Preventive maintenance will play crucial role to prevent stoppage of work and idle manpower.
Terms of contract with manpower supplier will need to be tweaked.But sending labour back will be wrong and defective planning.
It is loss of income for the worker.
Root cause analysis to see how many days sudden demand to reduce contract labour has taken place and what was the reason for such a change.
Was the machineU/s? or was order not there.
Once planning and scheduling machines, materials etc is planned out ,labour hour wastage can be curbed.

From India, Pune

Management and department heads need to ensure that planned production target is achieved.
For this
1 prior planning of
100% servicibilty of assembly line is ensured.
2.Necesssary skilled staff with optimim resources be made available 24x7 to minimize breakdowns.
3.Availability and supply of stores be ensured as per set target production planned.
4.Follow a weekly or fortnightly review and reschediling in production process.
5.Generate MIS reports and according decide on what kind of manpower and how much manpower is required on daily basis.
Ususlly contractors are hired on conditions to accept increase or decrease manpower to a certain percentage to manage with respect to company needs.

From India, Vadodara

Many thanks to Dinesh Sir, Nath Sir, and Bijay Sir for sharing your insights.
It has given me enough food for thought to approach this challenge.
Will understand the Production Planning and Scheduling processes maintain and update MIS for future reference, take preventive measures by regular maintenance and deploying skilled operators in all shifts, consider the possibility for automation wherever possible, conduct weekly/fortnightly reviews for rescheduling the processes, and ensure the availability of raw materials and identify ways to eliminate wastage, reduce the speed of the packing process, multi-skill manpower..
Great thoughts.

From India, Vadodara
Dinesh Divekar

Dear Kebb,
In my earlier reply, I had proposed the reduction of the manpower from the packing section.
Nevertheless, I further recommend shifting of the night-duty employees to the packing section if there is a production breakdown. After all, packing is not a highly skilled activity and the production workers should be able to do it. However, the challenge may come if the production workers consider packers' job as an inferior one and they may get resented too. However, they need to be convinced that instead of remaining idle, it is in the interest of the company to utilise the services of the workers. This will improve the company's productivity as a whole.
Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore
Need to share weekly shift schedule
From India , Pune

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