Manufacturers turning to nontraditional schedules

  • July 5, 2013 - 11:05 AM

MILWAUKEE — More manufacturers are turning to nontraditional schedules as they look to boost production.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported ( ) that manufacturers are turning to 12- and 10-hour shifts and 36-hour weekend shifts to keep assembly lines moving at efficient levels.

Douglas Fisher, an assistant professor and director of the Center for Supply Chain Management at Marquette University, says nontraditional schedules make a lot of sense. For example, two 12-hours shifts per day mean fewer complications with shift changes and running a plant 24 hours a day for seven days straight might eliminate the need to build another one.

Exacto Spring Corp., a Grafton-based spring manufacturer, has a day shift that runs from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, giving employees a jumpstart on their weekends.

"We call them Exacto hours. First, we started offering them in just the summer. Then we stretched it to include all of daylight savings time. Then it was for deer hunting, and now it's all year," company President Greg Heitz told the newspaper.

Employees at Milwaukee-based heavy equipment manufacturer Oldenburg Group's Rhinelander and Iron River, Mich., factories can work 10-hour day and night shifts Monday through Thursday or 36 hours on weekends for the equivalent of 40 hours' pay.

Wayne Oldenburg, the manufacturer's founder and CEO, says managers don't have any trouble finding volunteers for the weekend shifts because they get four days off in exchange.

People who work three days a week say the shifts save them money on gas and child care costs and give them time to pursue their hobbies. John Schoch works the 36-hour weekend shift the Oldenburg Group's Iron River factory. He spends his four days off fishing, riding his motorcycle or tinkering in his garage.

"I do pretty much anything I feel like doing. I might take a 30-minute nap and then head to the lake. I still have a lot of time for myself," Schoch said.

Health care experts say compressed work weeks sound great but can take a serious toll on people's health, cutting into their sleep time. A worker should have two days of rest after working three consecutive 12-hour shifts, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

"The timing of a shift can strain a worker's ability to get enough sleep," the CDC said in a report. "Working at night or 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."

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