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Dealing with Storms and Droughts

(April 2013) posted on Mon Mar 25, 2013

How to deal with an inconsistent job flow without increasing your number of employees.

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By Craig Miller

Which brings me to a pet peeve of mine: Over the past 19 years we’ve hired a lot of people who came from shops similar to ours. A significant percentage of these people report they worked obscenely long hours as a matter of routine. That is not what upsets me. What gets my dander up is they were on salary. The only people we put on salary are administrators; all our production staff is hourly. Companies in our industry have gotten away with this illegal and unethical practice for years. The only bright side to this practice by other companies is that some very good and talented people have tired of it and migrated to companies that will respect their rights.

The other down side to overworking your staff is you run the risk of breaking them – physically as well as psychologically. They burn out and their quality of work begins to suffer; you see mistakes begin to creep into jobs. Their morale suffers. I recently felt this myself when I began a late-night project but wasn’t sure if I could physically (or mentally) complete my share of the work. I did finish the job, but the experience helped me empathize with our staff in those situations. At least they can experience a dramatic increase in their paychecks.

Work smarter, deal with deadlines
If you’re faced with more work than you can normally execute, efficiency and smarts become key. If you have little or no time to spare, nothing can go wrong or you risk meeting your deadline.

For instance:

* We order extra materials and ink. We recognize that we might be working in the middle of the night or on the weekend, but our vendors aren’t. We also have made friends with our competitors – when any of us runs out of ink or media or a machine breaks down, we help one another. This beats the bad old days of hating one another and wishing one another ill.

* For the past 13 years, we have had a full-time technician on staff, and we stock spare parts. This way, we don’t have to wait 24 to 48 hours for a factory tech to show up at our door. If you don’t have time to spare, you certainly can’t afford to have a key piece of equipment go down.