On the way to Logistics 4.0

Logistic | 09/24/2019 | 5 Min.

The four dimensions of optimized shift planning in logistics

According to a current survey, around 80 percent of all companies perceive digitalization as one of the major challenges in the logistics area. Naturally, this also includes the digitalization and automation of HR processes and HR management. This is due to the fact that the world of work 4.0 in the logistics area means organizing and managing working time in an agile, demand optimized manner, in the interests of companies and employees alike. Consequently, shift planning must factor in four dimensions: capacity utilization, costs, working time preferences and qualifications. The following contribution shows how digital workforce management helps to manage this complexity. 
 

Best of Logistics (pdf, 12435 KB)

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Business cases from the logistics sector for a future-oriented, flexible workforce scheduling.

Best of Logistics (pdf, 12435 KB)

Securing optimal capacity utilization

Volatile order situations often necessitate adjustments in workforce scheduling on a weekly to daily basis, and sometimes even more short term. Manual tools for shift planning, such as Excel tables, will not enable the workforce deployment and management that is geared to actual demands and requirements. The use of manual tools may result in complete standstills on manufacturing lines, unpopular last minute, additional shifts or the laborious search for the right replacements. The basic precondition for a flexible shift planning, and in the best case, order linked shift planning, is the online exchange of data from the merchandise management system and digital workforce scheduling as well as working time management. The incoming order figures serve as foundation for a volume-based demand planning in a defined interval of time. When calculating net capacity, absences and vacation quotas are factored in. This avoids approvals of holidays or compensatory time-off when staffing levels are strained and capacity utilization is high.

Keeping a sharp eye on working time costs  

When software solutions for workforce scheduling and working time management are fully integrated, the planner has a precise overview of working time accounts, as well as the qualifications and absences of his or her team in real-time, 24/7. The planning cockpit shows precisely whether the required personnel capacities are available for the daily planning. In this way, planning staff can respond promptly to impending cut-off-times. Employee related information such as relevant legislation, pay scales company regulations, allowances and minimum and maximum staffing levels flow automatically into the personnel management and planning. The software generates a planning proposal that is optimally attuned to all of these criteria. In this context, it is also possible to prioritize individual criteria, as in the following:

  • Should the planning proposal be more cost-oriented or more service-oriented?
  • Is a certain qualification, for example in order picking, a must-have criterion, or merely nice to have?
  • To what extend should, or can, employee wishes be considered in planning?


Automated planning based on time management data creates complete transparency of the costs that would arise due to the planned staffing. This allows different deployment scenarios to be simulated and evaluated according to defined criteria.

Involving staff in planning 

Digital Workforce Management also caters to a third, and increasingly important dimension: the demands employees are making on working hours. Short-term and long-term working time accounts enable companies to map and reflect the different life phases of the members of their workforce. According to life phases – such as career start, the founding of a family, advanced employee age brackets or also the care of family members – employees will place a different emphasis on the factors of time and money. In their younger years, employees will be better able to cope with full-time employment involving night shifts, while later on in life, they may make use of special shift models geared to their seniority. The deployment of more senior employees should factor in potentially reduced performance capabilities and possible physical restrictions. Here are a few measures geared to stronger employee orientation:

  • Free shifts: In order to optimize the recreational/regenerative effects of free shifts they can be surmised in a fifth group of shifts.
  • Selected working hours: Thanks to so-called selected working hours, employees are able to voluntarily reduce their weekly work volume, which can be in turn compensated for by a defined number of compensation shifts per year.
  • Preferential duty plans and shift exchange platforms: Thanks to intuitive Self Services, employees can view their shifts, specify preferential working hours or announce carpooling options, and also exchange shifts.

Managing qualifications intelligently 

Flexibility in terms of time and schedules can be optimally augmented by skills flexibility. Systematic qualification management involving further training and education offerings can build up and expand knowledge held in companies. All of the qualifications and workplace demand profiles, such as for pickers, forklift truck drivers or fire prevention officers can be managed and scheduled with the help of digital workforce management. Even qualification levels can be assigned to a workplace or a shift in a targeted manner. The system issues timely warnings when there is a risk of qualifications expiring or a lack of replacements or substitute staff. In the ideal scenario the software provides support with suggestions as to how the necessary and actually existing qualifications can be balanced. When employees undergo the necessary further training, the workforce scheduling automatically reports their absence. Subsequently, the renewed qualifications are automatically available again.

Win-win situation for companies and employees

The increasing emphasis employees are placing on greater work-life-balance is sending out clear signals that companies should take seriously. Shift planning, regardless of whether short-term or long-term, must be socially compatible, adapted to individual age brackets and transparent. After all, a working environment which caters to the needs of all generations and makes use of the experiential knowledge of senior employees, promotes productivity, reduces staff shortages and boosts team motivation. In this way, employers and employees benefit alike.

Max Neff

ABOUT THE AU­THOR

Max Neff has been active at ATOSS as team leader for the retailing and logistics areas since 2017. His declared aim is to help companies in these sectors in achieving productivity gains, greater value creation and enhanced attraction as employers by implementing expedient workforce management solutions.

Max Neff
Executive Account Manager

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