The four dimensions of optimized shift planning in logistics

According to a recent survey, around 80 percent of all companies see digitization as one of the main challenges in the field of logistics. This naturally includes the digitization and automation of personnel processes and personnel management. After all, the World of Work 4.0 in logistics means making working hours agile and demand-optimized in the interests of companies and employees alike. Consequently, shift planning must take the following four dimensions into account: Capacity utilization, costs, working time requirements and qualifications. The following article shows exactly how digital workforce management helps in managing this complexity.

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Ensuring optimum capacity utilization

Volatile order situations often mean that staff scheduling has to be adjusted weekly, as well as on a daily basis and sometimes even more quickly. Manual tools for shift planning, such as Excel spreadsheets, do not enable flexible workforce management based on actual requirements. This often results in complete standstills on production lines, unpopular last-minute additional shifts or the time-consuming search for suitable replacement staff. The basic prerequisite for flexible, and in the best case, order-oriented shift planning is the online exchange of data from merchandise management and digital workforce scheduling and working time management. The order figures serve as the basis for quantity-based demand planning in a defined time interval. Absence and vacation quotas are included in the calculation of net capacity. In this way, it is possible to avoid having to approve vacation or time off in advance if the staffing levels are low and the workloads high.


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Keeping a keen eye on working time costs 

If software solutions for workforce scheduling and working time management are fully integrated, planners have a real-time overview of the time accounts as well as the qualifications and absences of their teams at all times. The planning cockpit shows precisely whether the personnel capacities required for daily planning are available. For example, planning staff can react at short notice if there is a risk of cut-off times. Employee-related information as well as laws, tariffs, company agreements, accruing allowances and minimum and maximum staffing levels are automatically included in personnel management and planning. The software creates a plan proposal that meets all these criteria in an optimal manner. The individual criteria can be prioritized, as exemplified in the following:

  • Should the proposed plan be more cost-oriented or service-oriented?
  • Is a particular qualification, for example in order picking, a mandatory or optional criterion?
  • To what extent should or can employee preferences and wishes be taken into account in planning?

Automated planning, taking working time management data into account, creates complete transparency about the costs that would be incurred by the planned staffing. This also allows different deployment scenarios to be simulated and evaluated according to the defined criteria.


Digital workforce management also meets the third and increasingly important dimension: The requirements of employees in terms of working hours. Short- and long-term working time accounts enable companies to map the different life phases of their workforce. Depending on the phase of life – such as launching a career, starting a family, advanced working age or caring for relatives – employees tend to weigh the factors time and money differently. At a young age, employees can better cope with full-time work with night shifts, while later on, they may be able to benefit from special age-appropriate shift models.

. This is due to the fact that in the case of older staff, deployment should be coordinated so as to take any lower performance capabilities and possible physical limitations into account. Some measures for greater employee orientation could be:

  • Non-working shifts: In order to optimize the recovery effect of non-working shifts, they can be grouped into a fifth shift group.
  • Election work hours: Employees can voluntarily reduce their weekly work volume with so-called elective working hours, which in turn can be compensated for by a defined number of compensatory shifts per year.
  • Preferred duty planning and shift exchange platforms: Using intuitive self services, employees can view their shifts, specify desired working times or carpools and swap shifts.

Managing qualifications intelligently

Time flexibility can be optimally complemented by technical flexibility. Systematic qualification management in connection with further training offerings allows the knowledge residing in the company to be built up and expanded in a targeted manner. All the qualifications and workplace requirements, such as the profiles for pickers, forklift drivers or fire safety officers, can be managed and scheduled with digital workforce management. It is even possible to specifically assign qualification levels to a workplace or a shift. The system warns in good time if qualifications threaten to expire or are not sufficiently available for an assignment. Ideally, the software supports by providing suggestions for reconciling the required and existing qualifications. If employees attend the necessary further training, they will be automatically reported as absent in workforce scheduling. The renewed qualifications are automatically available again.

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Win-win situation for companies and employees

The increasing emphasis that employees are placing on better work-life balance is a signal that companies should take seriously. Shift planning, whether short-term or long-term, must be socially compatible, family-friendly, age-appropriate and transparent. After all, a working environment that accommodates all generations and makes use of the experience and knowledge of older employees promotes productivity, reduces absenteeism and raises team motivation – benefitting employers and employees alike.

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Case Study engelhorn


Read here, how engelhorn benefits from demand- and employee-oriented personnel deployment.

ATOSS Case Study engelhorn

About the author

Max Neff

Since 2017 Max has been active as team leader at ATOSS for the spheres of retail and logistics. His declared aim is to help companies in these sectors in leveraging workforce management solutions in order achieve greater productivity, added value while enhancing their employer attractiveness.

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