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Energy crisis and shift planning - how companies react flexibly

The energy crisis is spreading far and wide, hitting industry hard and demanding maximum flexibility. In this article, we show you how this affects shift scheduling and how you can master the challenges.

What impact is the energy crisis having on Germany as an industrial location?

Although Germany has been relying on renewable energies for years, the green transformation is nowhere near as advanced as hoped. Instead of "new energy", gas from Russia was and is the most important source of energy for German industrial companies. This is a fatal dependency, as the energy crisis has caused the cost of electricity, the price of gas and other energy costs to virtually explode. The gas levy is also leading to higher expenses.

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These sharp price rises are having a huge impact on the competitiveness of many industrial companies. Energy-intensive companies, which already have to fight for their future in tough international competition, are particularly hard hit.

In addition, the price increases are leading to higher raw material and supply costs. Supply bottlenecks or disruptions in the supply chains are also painful for many companies. This is because it leads to forced breaks in operations and therefore high costs for companies.

Is there a threat of deindustrialization in Germany?

It is therefore quite possible that many German industrial companies will find themselves in a serious crisis. There is a threat of recession, which could mean insolvency or migration abroad for many companies. This is also referred to as deindustrialization. This is a challenge for Germany, as the country has been firmly characterized by industry for almost 200 years.

However, this trend has existed for some time, for example in mining or the automotive industry. Many jobs have also been relocated abroad or companies have closed. However, the current energy crisis has exacerbated the trend. Companies must therefore produce efficiently and be flexible if they want to continue to survive on the international market and remain in Germany.

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What challenges does the crisis pose for working time planning?

However, companies are not only feeling the effects of the energy crisis through increased energy and raw material prices. Supply bottlenecks often mean a standstill in production - without raw materials or required materials, nothing can be produced. As a rule, companies cannot afford such a standstill, as personnel costs have to be borne even if production is reduced. After all, employees cannot simply be laid off at short notice and rehired when the delivery situation improves.

One option is to send employees on short-time working or have them collect overtime. However, none of these measures are really satisfactory, neither for the employees nor for the companies themselves:

Employees rightly fear their job security and may no longer feel that they are employees, but merely a cost factor that needs to be kept to a minimum. And companies must expect to lose qualified and motivated employees as a result. Particularly in view of the shortage of skilled workers, hardly any company can afford this.

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Creating clarity about changes

Of course, companies also have the option of adapting their working time models in the long term by switching to alternative shift systems in order to save energy costs for ramping up furnaces, for example.

However, even such calculable changes require a high degree of preparation and communication. After all, employees want to be informed immediately and in good time about changes to the operating process.

This aspect of communication is an essential part of successful crisis management: Only if companies manage to communicate their decisions clearly to their employees can the corresponding measures be supported by everyone. Communication of this kind is a challenge that should not be underestimated, especially when plans are changed at short notice.

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Flexibility through agile shift planning

Especially in such turbulent times, companies need solutions that allow them to react flexibly to unexpected challenges such as sudden delivery bottlenecks. This is the only way they can build up the resilience they need to get through serious crises like the one we are currently experiencing.

In this case, this means that shift planning must be flexible enough to allow companies to adapt their staffing requirements quickly and flexibly to unexpected situations. But what could such solutions look like?

Intelligent solutions instead of rigid planning tables

Relying on flexible solutions for shift planning means much more than just entering the duty roster in a rigid Excel spreadsheet. This is because it also has to be changed manually in the event of unexpected problems and those involved have to be informed individually.

What sounds so easy can quickly become a huge amount of work for larger companies with hundreds of employees: If entire shifts or even just individual working days are canceled due to production, each employee must be notified individually - and not only as quickly as possible, but also in a way that complies with data protection regulations. This makes it almost impossible to react flexibly to unexpected events.

Digital shift planning tools offer far more flexibility. These are intelligent AI-supported programs that not only make it much easier to schedule working hours, but also bring further benefits:

Adjust shift plans quickly and safely

Production managers and shift planners can adjust staffing requirements with just a few clicks if, for example, goods deliveries are delayed or canceled altogether. The software automatically calculates the corresponding duty rosters based on the new parameters and notifies the relevant employees - in compliance with all legal and internal company regulations.

This automation saves a lot of time, especially for large companies with complex shift systems. Thyssen & Krupp, for example, has already made its shift plans more flexible in order to be able to react appropriately to changing requirements.

Although this does not always prevent production downtimes, it does reduce the risk of large numbers of employees standing unproductively in front of machines that have been shut down.

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Defying the energy crisis with agile planning software

Reduced planning effort may initially seem marginal in the face of drastically increased energy costs. However, there is far more potential in an intelligent shift plan solution than is apparent at first glance.

Tool manufacturer Krumpholz, for example, has switched its production to three-shift operation. The advantage: the blast furnaces can now be kept running permanently and no longer have to be started up in an energy-intensive manner. This saves huge amounts of gas - and therefore a lot of money, especially in the current climate.

Of course, switching to a complex multi-shift system like this is no easy undertaking. However, this is no problem for modern, scalable software solutions that can be individually adapted to a company's requirements.

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How can companies retain their employees despite the crisis?

It's not just the companies themselves that can benefit from more flexible shift planning. Although even the best solution cannot prevent production downtimes caused by supply bottlenecks or raw material shortages, chaos and hectic rushes caused by hasty roster changes can be avoided as far as possible.

If companies can guarantee their employees a certain degree of planning security even in difficult times, this ensures calm - a decisive advantage when it comes to surviving crises. This in turn has an impact on employee satisfaction - and therefore also on motivation.

What's more, the AI-supported software enables employees to swap or plan their shifts independently. This gives the staff a say. The result: active participation and the assumption of responsibility increase the feeling of being an important part of the company. This reduces the fear of losing one's job. Qualified employees can thus be retained more strongly - even in times of crisis.

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