Managing Workforce Coverage and Filling Gaps

What is Coverage?

The term "skills gap" in manufacturing is not just a macro-issue referring to the 2.1 million jobs that will be unfilled by 2030. It's also a term that can define a real-world operational challenge that plant managers face: maintaining the appropriate number of specifically qualified workers to meet demand on any given shift. A skills gap, in this sense, can also be called a "coverage gap." These gaps are essential to understand because they can negatively impact production outcomes every day.

The term "workforce coverage" or just "coverage" can be used to quantify these gaps through a simple equation:

While in most cases, especially in complex manufacturing environments, this calculation requires a broader set of dimensions, here’s a simple example: an operation requiring 10 workers who are qualified to do task "A" on a shift has  only 6 fully qualified workers available. This results in a coverage level of 60%. At 60% coverage, the operation suffers increased direct labor costs and potential quality risks that would not exist at 100% coverage. Therefore, the plant leadership team must determine how to fill this gap, usually through focused cross-training and better shift planning.

Measuring and Closing Coverage Gaps

The first step to measuring coverage is determining what skills the workforce currently has by quantifying the current workforce capabilities based on a relevant dimension (e.g., by shift, area, work order). The next step would be to assess the needs of each pre-defined workload and create a coverage plan outlining skill requirements. A manufacturer then has the two critical variables needed to build a comparative analysis and identify coverage gaps in the operation. When putting an action plan together to close those gaps, critical areas must be prioritized and highlighted, workers in training must be identified, and the qualification process must be as efficient as possible. After a few cycles of analysis and refinement, plant leaders can measure the progress of their action plans and update any new requirements. Plant leadership can then repeat the process to ensure any gaps don't persist.

Impact of Optimal Coverage

Coverage gaps have adverse impacts on manufacturing operations. Beyond the direct impact on productivity, they also put pressure on quality and safety systems. When optimal coverage is not reached, under-trained and misallocated workers can be put in positions to operate machinery or perform tasks that they are unqualified to do, resulting in adverse and potentially dangerous outcomes. In addition, with a less-than-optimal coverage plan, many plant leaders will be highly reactive to any changes in demand. This results in increasing overtime allocations exclusively to high-skilled (and typically more highly paid) workers, over-hiring for the wrong skill-sets, or mismanaging work schedules due to an inaccurate understanding of capacity per shift. These reactive actions can then have downstream effects that increase cost and risk. With this in mind, defining coverage requirements and accurately quantifying current levels of coverage within each area, process, or shift can be a massively impactful proactive measure.

Need help?

There is a proven correlation between increases in coverage and operational productivity in manufacturing. Because of this, the Covalent platform has been designed to help manufacturers track and optimize workforce coverage levels to meet their needs. Our platform assists in capturing granular skill data from the floor, facilitating highly targeted cross-training, visualizing coverage gaps in real-time, and arming plant leaders with the necessary workforce intelligence to take proactive steps to improve their workforce operations.

Contact us here to learn how Covalent can help your organization close its coverage gaps. 

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