Shift in Schedules

More employers turn to flex scheduling to increase productivity, keep staff happy

As the summer months roll on for many parts of the world, more people try to take days off for vacations or to spend time with friends and family.

Organizations know allowing employees time off can be crucial to maintaining satisfaction and motivation. But often, it’s perceived that employee absence comes with a price, including decreased production and efficiency.

In recent years, however, new trends have emerged among employers that helps offset these effects—including flexible work schedules and unlimited vacation time. More manufacturers are beginning to adopt a 12-hour work shift and other nontraditional scheduling methods. Companies such as IBM and Netflix have long since abandoned their vacation policies.

Organizations trying these new approaches say they help boost productivity and employee morale, and keeps assembly lines and other processes working as efficiently as possible.

Benefits abound

"There are a lot of strategic reasons to do it," Douglas Fisher, assistant professor and director of the Center for Supply Chain Management at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said of adopting nontraditional work schedules. "Having two 12-hour shifts a day is better than having three eight-hour shifts. There are fewer complications with things like shift changes. And if you can run a plant 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you might not have to build another facility."1

According to labor management author and speaker John Frehse, the eight-hour shift is costly, inflexible and in need of changing. In an article for IndustryWeek, Frehse wrote that to remain competitive operationally and keep employees happy with work options that support a better work-life balance, organizations should rethink the traditional schedule.

"As North American manufacturers struggle to keep a population of shift workers instead of offshoring the work, management teams must be more aggressive in finding the most profitable work solutions," Frehse wrote. "Those solutions must be balanced with palatable options for an increasingly demanding workforce. It’s time to retire the eight-hour shift and consider other possibilities for work that can reduce costs and help companies hire and retain the best talent."2

Oldenburg Group, a Milwaukee-based manufacturer that engineers heavy equipment and architectural lighting products, has seen the benefits of tweaking the traditional scheduling system. The organization’s factories in Rhinelander, WI, and Iron River, MI, have 10-hour day and night shifts Monday through Thursday. Alternatively, employees can work 36 hours on weekends and get paid for the equivalent of 40 hours.

A nontraditional work schedule has been a recruiting tool, said Wayne Oldenburg, the organization’s founder and CEO. He said many employees prefer to work the weekend shift—they use the four days they don’t have to work to pursue other interests, work another job or go back to school.3

According to Frehse, several factors beyond employee satisfaction and morale play into what he calls "the death of the eight-hour shifts," including:

  • Shift change and downtime inefficiency. Twelve-hour shifts mean one less shift change, Frehse wrote, which reduces the chance for a variety of problems that can be associated with shift changes. For example, if an employee doesn’t show up on time for a shift, management must scramble to fill that position. Downtime is an issue typically during startups, shutdowns and shift changes. This all can lead to lost volume, rising costs and increased waste.
  • Decreased absenteeism. Frehse said employees on longer shifts tend to be absent fewer times because each day missed is worth 50% more lost earnings. It also allows employees more free time during the week, reducing the likelihood they will use sick or vacation time to free up time on a weekday.
  • Reduced costs to the employee. People working three days a week reported it saves them money by not having to drive to their job the other two days, and it can also lower child care costs.4

Some concerns

All of these benefits make longer shifts or nontraditional work schedules sound like a no-brainer for employers. But there are drawbacks.

According to Donna Cardillo, an RN in New Jersey who wrote about the issue in American Nurse Today, compressed workweeks tend to wear people out. Twelve-hour shifts have become standard in most hospitals, but lack of sleep can be bad for your health, and tired workers can create unsafe conditions in the workplace.5

Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows two days of rest is required after working three consecutive 12-hour shifts. Often, however, people are tempted to cram too much into their days off, and this results in chronic fatigue.

"The timing of a shift can strain a worker’s ability to get enough sleep. Working at night or during irregular hours goes against the human body’s biology, which is hard-wired to sleep during the night and be awake and active during the day," the CDC said in a report.6

Taking it further

Other employers are adopting an even more flexible approach—unlimited vacation. At first glance, you might think allowing unlimited vacation time would lead to chaotic offices and decreased productivity. The concept, however, has created more efficiency, at least according to Dharmesh Shah, cofounder and chief technology officer of Hubspot, which doesn’t track any of its employees’ time off.

"Employees take the vacation when they need it and we don’t have a spike of vacations at specific points of time," Shah said.7

Some organizations are even going as far as requiring employees to take vacations. Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, established "The Fool’s Errand" five years ago. It’s a monthly ritual when, at a meeting of all 250 employees, one name is drawn from a hat. That person must take off two consecutive weeks within the next month. Spokesperson Alison Southwick said this activity benefits not only employees, but also the entire organization.

"First, it helps make sure that people are taking time off, clearing their heads and recharging their batteries. Second, it helps us fight against single points of failure within the company. When you suddenly take two weeks off, you need to make sure that other people around you understand what you do so that the company doesn’t come to a screeching halt if you’re gone," she said.8

Unlimited vacation, though, also has its drawbacks. While employees say they have more flexibility regarding when they perform their work, they also find themselves working more than ever. Shah said he works from home often, and puts in odd hours—sometimes working until 2 a.m. and on most weekends. Using this approach, organizations must be wary of staff burnout.9

Every facility has unique operational requirements, employee preferences, and health and safety needs, Frehse wrote, so there are many options for how organizations should schedule shifts or regulate vacation.

"Moving forward, employers can no longer be complacent about labor strategies," Frehse wrote. "We cannot afford to keep labor strategies because ‘this is how we have always done it’ or because ‘another plant does it this way.’ We need to actually engage with our employees, ask them questions and listen to their responses."10

—Amanda Hankel, assistant editor


  1. Rick Barrett, "Manufacturers Turn to 12-hour Shifts, Nontraditional Scheduling," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 4, 2013, http://www.jsonline.com/business/manufacturers-turn-to-12-hour-shifts-nontraditional-scheduling-b9943225z1-214337781.html.
  2. John Frehse, "The Death of the 8-Hour Shift," IndustryWeek, Oct. 17, 2012, http://www.industryweek.com/labor-employment-policy/death-8-hour-shift?page=1.
  3. Barrett, "Manufacturers Turn to 12-hour Shifts, Nontraditional Scheduling," see reference 1.
  4. Frehse, "The Death of the 8-Hour Shift," see reference 2.
  5. Donna Cardillo, "Are 12-hour Shifts Safe?" American Nurse Today, March 28, 2011, www.americannursetoday.com/blogview.aspx?bl=6268&bp=8040.
  6. Barrett, "Manufacturers Turn to 12-hour Shifts, Nontraditional Scheduling," see reference 1.
  7. Lydia Dishman, "Unlimited Vacation Doesn’t Create Slackers—It Ensures Productivity," Fast Company, March 9, 2012, www.fastcompany.com/1823415/unlimited-vacation-doesnt-create-slackers-it-ensures-productivity?utm_source=facebook.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Frehse, "The Death of the 8-Hour Shift," see reference 2.


GMO Labeling Gains Steam
Across United States

The movement to label foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) appears to be gaining traction across the United States.

Last month, Connecticut and Maine passed labeling bills, the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the first time approved a non-GMO label claim for meat products, Chipotle began voluntarily labeling its menu items containing GMO ingredients online, and the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration funding to label genetically modified salmon if the agency approves the fish.

"It’s simply a matter of time," said Scott Faber, who serves as executive director of Just Label It, a national advocacy campaign. Faber, vice president of government affairs at the environmental working group, used to be a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which actively lobbies against mandatory labeling initiatives.

Faber said he believes mandated GMO labeling is inevitable, in part because the food industry would prefer federal standards rather than a patchwork of state laws.

In more than 25 states, legislation or initiative petitions requiring labeling have been introduced, most notably in California, where $40 million was spent to defeat Proposition 47, a ballot proposal requiring labeling. Voters rejected the proposed labeling law late last year by six percentage points. California would have been the first state in the nation to pass such an initiative.

Opponents argued that the price of new California labels, or the cost manufacturers would have incurred by changing to non-GMO ingredients, would be passed on to consumers. The opposition calculated households would pay as much as $400 more a year for groceries, but there was no independent study to show that.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement last month that it remains opposed to "special mandatory labeling for food products containing genetically modified ingredients because these labels could mislead consumers into believing that ingredients from genetically engineered plants are somehow different or unsafe or unhealthy—in clear contradiction of scientific fact."

The association was scheduled to hold a summit in Washington, D.C., last month with representatives of more than 300 companies discussing GMO labeling.



Videos Feature Interview
With Hunter, Statistics Giant

A new video series based on an in-depth conversation with well-known statistician and author J. Stuart Hunter covers how industrial statistics began and was developed through the years. 

The collection of 26 videos was taken from an informal interview in November 2011, conducted by Lynne B. Hare, the past chair of ASQ’s Statistics Division and a fellow of both ASQ and the American Statistical Association (ASA).

The interview includes Hunter’s recollections of fellow statisticians, the industrial emergence of designed experiments and the future of statistics.

Hunter, 90, is professor emeritus at Princeton University and was the first editor of Technometrics, a quarterly journal co-published four times yearly by ASQ and the ASA.

He is also an honorary ASQ member, past president of ASA and co-author of Statistics for Experimenters: Design, Innovation and Discovery, considered a classic in statistical circles.

To access the free videos, each lasting two to 12 minutes, visit http://tinyurl.com/pfsn5lr. The videos were sponsored and developed by the ASA and the SAS Institute.


Milwaukee Is Site of NQEC Event in November

ASQ’S Education Division will host the 21st National Quality Education Conference (NQEC) Nov. 17-18 in Milwaukee.

The conference, following the theme "Creativity and Innovation: Keys to 21st Century Learning," will feature dozens of sessions, as well as live presentations from ASQ’s Education Team Excellence Recognition Process recipients.

The event also will feature two keynote speakers: JoAnn Sternke, superintendent of the Pewaukee School District in Wisconsin, and Alan M. Blankstein, founder and president of the HOPE Foundation.

For more information about the conference and to register, visit http://nqec.asq.org.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Abdelfattah Ibrahim Barakat.

RESIDENCE: Temporarily living in Algiers, Algeria. His permanent residence is in Egypt.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Zagazig University in Egypt.

CURRENT JOB: Quality manager at Hassan Allam Construction, working on an Algierian refinery rehabilitation and adaptation project.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: Member of the contractor quality control team that implemented the quality plan for a high-priority project in 2004 in Alexandria, Egypt. The project was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Field quality manager at Amana Contracting and Steel Buildings in the Middle East, and quality assurance/quality control engineer at Orascom/Besix in Egypt. Managed the quality of construction work for heavy industrial plants, buildings and public infrastructures in Egypt, Yemen, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Participated in developing quality systems using quality methods such as ISO 9001, Six Sigma, total quality management, kaizen and continuous improvement.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: ASQ member and ASQ-certified manager of quality and organizational excellence, quality improvement associate and quality process analyst.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Member of the Egyptian Syndicate of Engineers.

PERSONAL: Married, two children.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Reading, writing, swimming, walking, gardening and landscaping.

QUALITY QUOTE: Quality is both the soul and the health for the product.


Peach, Pioneer of QMs
Standards and RAB, Dies

Robert William Peach, a pioneer in quality management system (QMS) standards and a key player behind ASQ’s funding the establishment of the Registrar Accreditation Board (RAB), has died. He was 88.

Peach’s first job was in packaging at Sears, Roebuck & Co. in Kankakee, IL. Eventually, he became a quality assurance manager at Sears, a position he held for more than 25 years. While he was there, he became an ASQ member. For 15 years, he was also a member of the working group that developed ISO 9004-1.

Peach helped develop the entire ISO 9000 series of standards and recognized the need for a system of third-party certification to facilitate trade. He led a 1988 study to determine the feasibility of having ASQ operate what’s now known as a certification body or registrar. It was decided ASQ should instead form a legally separate entity to oversee third-party certification in the United States.

ASQ announced the formation of RAB for accreditation of quality system certification bodies and named George Lofgren as its director on Jan. 29, 1990. Peach served as chair of the first board of directors of the new organization. RAB is the predecessor of the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board.

Peach also contributed to quality in other ways: He served as project manager for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award consortium for three years, he was the editor of The ISO 9000 Handbook, and he co-authored The Memory Jogger 9000. Peach also served as a quality consultant to the World Bank. He was recognized for his contributions to quality with ASQ’s Edwards Medal in 1979 and the Freund-Marquardt Medal in 2000. A service was held last month in Apex, NC. For a full obituary, visit http://tinyurl.com/l9e4rmf.


Berwick, Former CMS Chief,
To Run for Bay State Governor

Donald M. Berwick, the quality advocate and former embattled acting chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), recently launched his campaign for election as Massachusetts governor in 2014.

Berwick, a physician and former ASQ member, became CMS chief in July 2010 under unusual circumstances. Expecting Congress was going to turn Berwick’s nomination hearings into a heated debate over the then recently passed Affordable Care Act, President Obama installed Berwick to the post as a temporary recess appointment that didn’t require Senate approval.

The past president and CEO of the healthcare advocacy group the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Berwick became a lightning rod for controversy because of what his critics contended were extreme views on socialized medicine, including rationing healthcare and capping spending. 

"As a doctor, an educator, an innovator and someone who has dedicated his professional career to making things work better and to helping people—I am ready to lead," Berwick wrote on his campaign’s website. "That is why I am running for governor of Massachusetts."

Berwick, a Democrat, will face at least one other Democratic candidate: Joseph Avellone, another physician. Two more Democrats are considering runs. No Republican has formally announced campaign plans.



JOURNAL EDITOR SOUGHT ASQ is seeking nominations for the position of editor of Software Quality Professional. The new editor for this quarterly publication will be selected by ASQ’s Publications Management Board after reviewing recommendations from the editor search committee. The new editor will begin a three-year term in 2014. For more information, visit http://asq.org/software/call-for-editor-nominations-sqp-journal.pdf or email Taz Daughtrey, chair of the editor search committee, at daughtht@jmu.edu.

NEW ASQ BLOGGERS ADDED ASQ Influential Voices has added seven new bloggers to the roster of writers and thinkers who share their ideas about quality-related topics. The new bloggers include Babette N. Ten Haken, Chad Walters, Edwin Garro, Shon Isenhour, James Lawther, Jeffrey Phillips and Guy Bigwood. For more information about their backgrounds and to read their blogs, visit the ASQ Influential Voices webpage at http://asq.org/blog/2013/06/new-influential-voices-bloggers.

U.S. ASSIGNED AS SECRETARIAT The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) technical management board has assigned the United States as the country to become secretariat to ISO Technical Committee (TC) 69—Applications of statistical methods, and ISO TC 176 subcommittee 1—Concepts and terminology. Jennifer Admussen of ASQ’s standards development team will begin secretary activities this month. TC176 SC1 develops ISO 9000 Quality management systems—Fundamentals and vocabulary. The document is being revised. and the revision is expected to be published in 2015, along with ISO 9001.

TEAM ENTRIES DUE Team entries for the 2014 International Team Excellence Award process are due Sept. 9. The entry fee is $600. The activity is the only international team recognition process of its kind in the United States and will culminate with team presentations and demonstrations at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement May 5-7, 2014, in Dallas. For more information and to apply, visit http://wcqi.asq.org/team-competition/timeline.html.

Date in Quality History

QP occasionally looks back on a person or event that made a difference in the history of quality.

Aug. 27, 1987

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was signed into law on this date.

The award is presented annually to organizations that demonstrate quality and performance excellence. The Baldrige award was designed to raise awareness of quality management and recognize U.S. companies that have implemented successful quality management systems.

The award is named for Malcolm Baldrige, who was secretary of commerce from 1981 to 1987. During the time he led the department, Baldrige’s managerial excellence contributed to long-term improvement in efficiency and effectiveness of government. Within the department, Baldrige reduced the budget by more than 30% and administrative personnel by 25%. His tenure as secretary of commerce was one of the longest in history.

As a boy, Baldrige had worked as a ranch hand and earned several awards as a professional team roper on the rodeo circuit. He was named Professional Rodeo Man of the Year in 1980 and was inducted to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1984. Baldrige was killed in a rodeo accident in 1987.


  • National Institute of Standards and Technology, www.nist.gov.

ASQ Journal Spotlight

Every month, QP highlights an open-access article from one of ASQ’s seven other journals. This month, be sure to read "Leadership Development: A Whole Lot of Hooey," which appeared in April edition of the Journal of Quality and Participation.

The article, written by Kenny Moore, uses Plato’s metaphor of the acorn ("our calling, vocation, or destiny") that is destined to grow into a mighty oak to explore the theme of leadership as determined early in life.

To access the article, click on the "Current Issue" link on Journal of Quality and Participation’s website: http://asq.org/pub/jqp. From there, you also can find a link to information about subscribing to the quarterly publication.


TWO BALDRIGE REGIONAL Conferences will take place on separate dates next month in Chicago and Dallas. Both events will include sessions featuring senior executives from the 2012 Baldrige Award recipients, as well as management sessions. For more specifics, visit www.nist.gov/baldrige/regionals.

PUBLIX SUPERMARKETS, the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the United States, with stores throughout the southern United States, was awarded the Black Pearl Award from the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) at its annual meeting last month. The award is given annually to one organization for its efforts in advancing food safety and quality through consumer programs, employee relations, educational activities, adherence to standards, and support of the goals and objectives of IAFP.

ABOUT HALF OF Americans prefer physicians as primary care providers, but they’re willing to be treated by nurse practitioners and physician assistants for timely access, according to a new study by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The report notes that the United States will face a critical doctor shortage—90,000—by the year 2020. To read more from the study, visit http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/6/1135.abstract.

THE 19TH INTERNATIONAL Symposium on Quality Function Deployment will take place Sept. 6-7 in Santa Fe, NM. The event will feature at least 20 presentations based on accepted papers, as well as opportunities for training and certificate courses. For more information, visit www.qfdi.org/isqfd.html.

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