Overlapping Shifts Versus Gaps Between Shifts

The following question arrived this morning about 3-shift operations in a factory: “Is it a good idea to have both the ‘leaving’ and the ‘upcoming team’ together having the shift handover and line meeting all at once?”

In principle, having a handover in person at each work station would be valuable, but is often impractical. If, for example, a shift is behind schedule, a gap between shifts gives it an opportunity to catch up but a shift overlap doesn’t. And when the shift is on schedule, the gap can be used for maintenance. There are also logistical issues with overlapping shifts: during the overlap, your facility must accommodate the populations of both shifts at the same time. This means an oversize parking lot, crowded hallways, and a crowded shop floor.

A shift overlap for line management, on the other hand, is easier to arrange, starting as the production supervisor level, even with a gap between shifts.

7 comments on “Overlapping Shifts Versus Gaps Between Shifts

  1. Comment on LinkedIn:

    I dont understand your “logistical issues” argument! In Denmark morning shift starts at 6 meaning people must arrive at 5.45 to change and get ready at the machine…meaning that every shift has an overlap in matters of parking lot, locker room etc.

    • I didn’t mean to imply that the logistical issues couldn’t be overcome, only that they existed. The parking lot issue is major if all employees use cars to come to work, as is common in the US. As Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro said, “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.” In this sense, perhaps, Denmark is truly developed. Where employees come to work by bus or train, the parking lot problem vanishes. If they are come by company shuttles, it’s even easier, because the shuttles can drop off the next shift and pick up the finished one.

      • Comment on LinkedIn:

        Point taken Michel I never thought of that difference between our countries. In DK the “normal” is overlap. TPM are planned as a shift. I think overlap are fantastic as you have a 1t1 transfer of key focus points and KPI’s. In DK we dont use management to prepare shifts

  2. Comment on LinkedIn:

    Overlapping shifts have never worked in my mind, the facility has to accommodate twice the amount of people, the shop floor is full, the locker rooms impossibly crowded car parks full to bursting. far better to use a shift gap for TPM, clean down and preparation by the management team for the oncoming shift. The shift then has the best opportunity to start well in a controlled ordered and clean and safe environment.

    ts not just a UK thing. My experience is EU and USA. I don’t think the machine area handover works. The person handing over is tired and wants to get away, the person coming in has just experienced a facility full to bursting point. Its not going to be a good handover. Leave a short commentary at the workstation, use data from the previous shift to show where the issues have been. Call in support before shift end to ensure that the area is in the best possible shape for the oncoming shift. 5s the area. The data from the line will tell the oncoming shift what they need to know. Departing shift should commit to handing over the best possible area that they can.

  3. Comment on LinkedIn:

    Some good points raised here. Several years back we tried all three methods you mention (line overlap, line gap, mgmt overlap) and they all failed equally – because the issue we failed to address was support functions (ie – sales, R&D, engineering, HR, etc). This resulted in 2nd/3rd shift line managers and staff being treated as subordinates to their 1st shift counterparts. People are not machines; machines don’t care if anyone asks for their input. Machines don’t care if another machine gets undue credit for increased output. However, as people, we want to feel respected and given the opportunity to use our brain. All too often the production team is viewed merely as hands-without-a-brain, and when a company applies focus strictly on the efficiency of shift change-over without respect for the individuals involved the system will inevitably end up very broken (and so will your people).

  4. Comment on LinkedIn:

    I don’t believe there is a perfect solution to this problem, but rather sharing experiences and finding what fits best. What I experienced as a good approach was:

    1. Overlap of 5 minutes
    2. Handover process defined, but takes place ‘like to like’, i.e machine operator to machine operator, supervisor to supervisor. The objective is to keep the line running at constant takt throughout the handover.
    3. Shift meetings done early in the shift, but not at the start. The idea is to get production running at steady state, including getting manning and absenteeism issues sorted up front.

    This was practically possible because the plant operated different shift patterns (1, 2 & 3).

  5. Comment on LinkedIn:

    This is a very timely article for me as we are just starting a second shift in our bottleneck operation on Monday. I chose to go with a 30 minute overlap between the shifts. In our situation, we don’t have logistical issues with facilities or parking cited in earlier comments.

    Also, The operators tend several machines simultaneously so we don’t have a case where one operator is blocking another. I chose the overlap to facilitate direct communication of the status of each machine, what issues they faced, and maintain a connection between the two shifts.

    Often, I have heard one shift complain about the other because they never had the opportunity to talk about their concerns directly. Over time, as the second shift matures I may shorten the duration of the overlap.

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