Eight hours vs. 12 hours-which shift works best for the company and the employee? A series of stories in our last edition explored that issue. We had company officials touting the value of 12-hour shifts, union guys calling it inhumane, health and safety experts giving opposing viewpoints.
Here's my opinion: Mandatory 12-hour shiftsare inefficient, unsafe and a mistake.
I've heard all the arguments in their favor. The 12-hour shift allows companies to utilize their equipment more effectively; utilities-lights, heat, etc.-can be used more efficiently; better production scheduling is possible; the need for overtime reduced.
Add all this together, and a 12-hour shift manufacturer expects to get an improved bottom line.
I don't buy it. What results is a superficial financial improvement, and the creation of long-term employee problems.
There are plenty of jobs and situations in life when people are called to work 12 or more hours. Anybody can do that on occasion. People also can be trained to routinely work long hours-medical and military professionals are good examples of this.
But will you be as efficient in the 12th hour as you were in the eighth? Not likely, especially if your job is repetitive and mundane.
That means a lower quality performance by many, if not most, production workers, particularly those who don't want to work a 12-hour shift. Poor quality will kill a company, so it seems inconsistent that companies that swear by continuous improvement adopt the 12-hour shift.
Then there's the safety issue. Accidents occur more often when people are weary and can't concentrate on their work. Are workers more tired at the end of a 12-hour shift than an eight-hour run? The answer is obvious.
The 12-hour shift also can disrupt family life and increase stress. Some people enjoy the 12-hour shift, but they're the exceptions.
The use of the 12-hour shift today is another example of the weakness of the union movement. Organized labor long ago fought and won the eight-hour day, and the American industry thrived under it.
Not anymore. The bottom-line mentality that grips the rubber industry today declares that machinery can be run more efficiently under continuous operations. Therefore, workers have to adjust.
But people aren't machines. When they break down, bad things happen, for the company as well as the individual.
Noga is editor of Rubber & Plastics News.