When NO means New Opportunity


Violence was escalating in our area. It was the third time in a week that we received an anonymous call telling us to send people home before sunset. Our sales team was selling our products like ice cream on a summer day…


I came into the office of our production manager and he was looking desperate.


“What is going on?”

“Our headquarters just sent me an e-mail telling everyone that it is forbidden to work after sunset. How will we deliver all the orders if we cannot work at night???”

“Is this what they told you? No work at night?”

“Yes, we are lost!!! We will never deliver what we have to on time! We will lose our customers, we will have no BONUS!!!! I never spent a year without my bonus!!!!”

“Hhmmm…what is written in that e-mail?”

“Why are you insisting on that? Don´t you see the problem we have?”

“Yes, I do. I am thinking of a possible solution.”

“And that would be?”


That was the one million dollar question. I read the e-mail. “working after sunset is not allowed”. Lucky for me, spring was just starting at that time. But, I knew I had to negotiate some terms before presenting my idea to headquarters and the management team.


I went into the production area to think about it. Observing processes and people’s movements during their work and making connections.


It was a capital goods production unit. Painting would suffer from not having those extra hours and we did not have any extra cabins to increase productivity. So, I knew this would be a production bottleneck.


We were working 3 shifts, 6 days a week: from 6 – 14, 14 – 22 and 22 – 6. One hour lunch time and 20 minute breaks for coffee.  


How could we make it possible to compensate the night shift productivity?


Then, I looked around and saw the machines. I realized that this time, the answer would not come from people, but in fact, from the equipment they were operating. A blue collar worker could produce only as much and as long the equipment was working. No equipment, meant no production and equipment doesn’t necessarily need “resting” time.


I came up with an idea: what if we could create our own shift structure looking from the equipment perspective instead of people´s perspective? What if we focused on having the machines working 14 hours straight? Would that be enough to cover our night shift?


The only person who could give me that answer was the production planner, so I went to him and asked about output per hour.


The math was pretty simple…with 3 shifts we had 20 hours of production (- 1h20 resting time per shift), with this plan, 14.


We were still 6 hours “behind” in machine time. Almost a whole shift, which was still not enough. What could we do? The question became: was it possible to regroup people in order to cover this gap? 


Now it was time to go to the source: our blue collar workers. They were the ones who would make it possible to deliver the same output with less working hours. They knew the “tricks” and if they were motivated correctly, they could provide us with priceless inputs.


To our surprise, not only were we able to cover the gap, but to produce 50% as much within this new structure.