TAKING THE TIME OUT OF SCHEDULING

The labor-scheduling process is one of the most effective ways for retailers to add dollars to the bottom line, and time-saving software solutions are helping retailers do just that.Labor is the single largest expense a retailer can control with best practices and improved efficiencies. Many retailers are turning to labor-scheduling software, while some are sticking to their spreadsheets.Knowlan's

The labor-scheduling process is one of the most effective ways for retailers to add dollars to the bottom line, and time-saving software solutions are helping retailers do just that.

Labor is the single largest expense a retailer can control with best practices and improved efficiencies. Many retailers are turning to labor-scheduling software, while some are sticking to their spreadsheets.

Knowlan's Festival Foods, St. Paul, Minn., has found that the labor-scheduling system it recently implemented has helped develop more precise schedules while ensuring compliance with union rules.

"We rolled out labor scheduling to our first store last September, and now we have it in all of our stores," said Ed Doud, information-technology retail specialist for Knowlan's Festival Foods.

The retailer's new system uses calculations made for transaction times and front-end coverage and outputs a schedule that meets union contract rules, staff availability and time-off requests, according to the retailer.

"First we put in staff-scheduling conflicts and requests for time off. When we initially set up the system, we took into account union rules," Doud said.

The retailer said that it currently imports the sales forecasts and sales data from the previous two weeks, as well as the sales for the same week the previous year when devising a work schedule.

"When it comes to labor scheduling, you have to have an understanding with the store staff and make an effort to meet their expectations as well as the company's expectations," Doud said.

"In such a tight labor market, meeting needs of the store and the company is critical."

Lamb's Thriftway, Portland, Ore., recently went back to a spreadsheet to schedule its front-end employees after working with a labor-scheduling solution.

Colin Lamb, vice president for Lamb's, said that the retailer recently reverted to using a spreadsheet and computing quarter-hour sales data to maximize its labor resources.

Industry experts told SN that to maximize labor-scheduling software, retailers must consistently revisit and monitor its labor standards and ensure that its labor-scheduling system is efficient.

Binghamton Giant Markets, Binghamton, N.Y., is also maximizing its front-end operations with a labor-scheduling system.

"We have had labor scheduling primarily for front-end checkout and customer service," said James Whittaker, director of management-support services for Binghamton. "We felt customer service was the biggest impact."

The solution gives the retailer the ability to pull sales data directly into the [labor-scheduling] system and feed the data into the scheduling requirements.

"What it has done is that it has more closely mirrored the business activity; it's greatly improved the service levels in a labor market where your labor pool has been greatly reduced.

"We do have several managers really into [using the software]. They more closely hit the sales levels vs. customer-service levels. Their front ends are running more efficiently," he added.

The retailer said that the system could and would eventually be used to schedule all departments in a store.

"It's a little more complicated on the other departments because you have to track operations, like how long it takes to cut meat," Whittaker told SN.