Managing a workforce in manufacturing has no shortage of challenges.
From operational changes to increasing demand to cover a 24-hour production schedule, choosing a shift pattern that aligns with your workforce and business needs is more important than ever.
Sometimes, it might require moving beyond traditional work shifts (like rotation or recurring) to other shift pattern examples that align more closely with your workforce.
After all, if you want to keep those production lines running smoothly, you need to offer flexibility in your employee’s schedules.
The last thing you want to experience is another burnout or disengaged employee.
With that in mind, here are some shift pattern examples that you can consider testing and implementing in your business:
Common Types and Examples of Shift Schedules
The best type of shift will depend on your business needs, team size, and workforce preferences.
Here are some of the most common types:
1. Rotating Shifts
Rotating shift patterns are a manufacturing shift schedule where employees consistently switch between day and night shifts.
For example, on Week A a team will work on day shifts, and on Week B they’ll rotate onto night shifts, then go back to days again.
Rotating shift schedules is common for companies that require consistency in their processes and don’t want an overly complex people management system.
The benefit to this type of shift is there’s more variety and additional learning opportunities involved.
For example, an employee who works during the day may have different tasks and have the opportunity to learn new operations during their night shifts.
The downside is that there’s less routine consistency. Since the shift changes from weeks to months, some employees may not be big fans of switching gears and adjusting their circadian rhythms from day to night. However, this can be a more fair way to schedule all employees.
Pro Tip: To help employees’ bodies adjust to the day/night shift, gradually moving them from evening to morning can help ease them into it and promote routine consistency. Also consider using a task management software to help automate employee to-do lists.
2. DuPont Shifts
DuPont shifts are manufacturing shift schedules that follow a four-week cycle and use a 12-hour rotating pattern.
Your workforce will be split into four teams, switching between day and night shifts, with days off in the middle.
The main benefit of a DuPont rotating shift to employees is that each team will have a 7-day consecutive break every month.
The downside is that the pattern requires you have four teams, each with people skilled enough to run every function in your manufacturing business.
This can result in employees working for multiple consecutive days without much of a break.
3. 2-3-2 shifts
2-3-2 work schedules, also known as the Pitman schedule, is a pattern that divides your staff into four teams, and each team works on a rotating schedule over a four-week period.
The teams work two days on, two days off, three on, two off, two on, and three days off (or nights).
Because the schedule runs for four weeks, the benefit is that it brings consistency to your team. The downside is that it can be tiring for staff due to the run of three consecutive 12-hour shifts.
4. 4 on 4 off shifts
4 on 4 off schedules are effective because they give your company 24/7 coverage.
An example 4 on 4 off shift pattern would be:
- 4 days on
- 4 days off
- 4 nights on
- 4 days off
The main benefit is that staff effectively get four-day workweeks and have four days off at a time to rest. The downside is that staff will need to work on weekends.
However, in manufacturing, this happens with most other shift patterns too.
5. Graveyard Shifts
Graveyard shifts (a common name for night shifts ) are hard to avoid in manufacturing work as most companies need to run around the clock.
It’s rare to need a shift pattern that relies exclusively on people working night shifts.
If your company runs 24/7 and you need employees to work the graveyard shift, ensure they get time off and don’t always need to work on it, as it can lead to burnout.
Alternatively, offering employees a shift premium (an hourly bonus on their shift) can boost employee engagement and make them feel valued. Whether it be 1.5X or 2X the hourly rate, you can easily customize the amount and type of premium using a workforce management tool like Evolia.
6. Swing Shifts
A swing shift, commonly known as the second or afternoon shift involves “facing both ways”.
In that, you are working two different intervals: starting in the afternoon/late evening and swinging into the early hours of the morning.
An example of a common swing shift pattern includes an employee working:
- 4 pm to 12 am on the first day
- 2 pm to 10 pm the next day
- 6 pm to 2 am the following day
Employees then receive three days off and repeat the same shift pattern the following week. Most employees will receive their swing shift schedules in advance to properly plan their days.
The shift benefits depend on who you ask. Student employees can benefit from this type of shift because it allows them to take courses in the morning and early afternoon. That and employees who are more alert and have more energy in the late afternoon can benefit as well.
There are several downsides to working this shift. Since swing shifts literally involve swinging back and forth between afternoon and graveyard shifts, it’s difficult to maintain a social life, let alone take care of kids on this type of shift.
Luckily, most companies accommodate employees by letting them choose their preferred shift times to ensure a healthy/work-life balance. Some employees have a different schedule each week or month while others have swing schedules that are more set in stone.
7. Continuous Shifts
Put simply, a continuous shift is where the work hours are regularly rotated in accordance with a shift roster covering a 24-hour per day operation over a 7-day week.
This shift takes place from Monday to Sunday, which means: working on the weekends. It’s common to see this type of shift in industries that never sleep like healthcare & manufacturing.
The drawback to implementing this shift is that without the proper practices in place, it can result in employee fatigue and burnout. Luckily, there are many helpful ways to avoid it.
The benefit of continuous shifts? It offers a steady and consistent schedule for both employees and managers.
8. On-Call Shifts
On-call shifts are no longer limited to the healthcare or retail industry. Due to increasing operational demand, this type of shift pattern is showing up in manufacturing sectors as well.
The term speaks for itself, in that an on-call shift involves employee(s) being on standby and working on demand to fill a requested shift.
The way it works: Employees call in an hour or two before their shift starts to see whether they’ll need to come in or not.
The obvious drawback to this shift is the lack of flexibility. Employees need to leave a window of time open in case they get potentially called in.
Being on standby and having fluctuating hours can be financially frustrating. Not to mention, prevents you from planning the rest of your day/ week.
If used as a supplement to an existing workweek, the benefit of an on-call shift is that it offers employees the opportunity to bank in extra hours. While it offers managers the right amount of employees at the right time without having to over-schedule.
Recommended Reading: Manufacturing Shift Schedule Guide
Choosing a shift pattern that works best for everyone
As you’ve come to discover, there are many different shift pattern examples in manufacturing.
The key to finding the right shift type starts with understanding your business needs and workforce preferences.
Trial & error is inevitable, yet the pros & cons of each shift pattern listed above help you narrow down the process to find one that closely aligns with your workforce.
Once your shift pattern is set in place, you can easily create recurring schedules by setting your custom rules and automating the process using a manufacturing workforce management solution like Evolia.