The coming of automated scheduling

In my various part time jobs throughout high school (especially at the mall and at a restaurant) and college, I often complained about the scheduling (because I wanted to be there when I had to do the least amount of work), but I also thought that the system could be managed much better. I thought you could create a complex scheduling system that would create a weekly work schedule for the part time employees based on expected demand, drawn from past year data, upcoming events (such as sales, advertisements, promotions, concerts nearby, back to school, holidays, etc), news events (ecoli for restaurants would be bad, for example), and weather (when I worked at restaurant, it was a no brainer we would be dead on rainy or snowy nights). The system would recommend a number of employees for the night, and also have a few on call workers just in case things got crazy. The result would be far happier customers who received the perfect level of service.

In this morning’s WSJ (paid wall) it appears Walmart is planning to roll out this exact system to manage their part time scheduling in stores.

Wal-Mart Stores
Inc., using a new computerized scheduling system, will start moving
many of its 1.3 million workers from predictable shifts to a system
based on the number of customers in stores at any given time. The move
promises greater productivity and customer satisfaction for the huge
retailer but could be a major headache for employees.

Well it’s not the exact same, it will be based more on previous years sales data and not all the extra stuff I listed above, but the point is it appears we are moving in this direction as retailers seek to improve productivity and squeeze out costs.. Payless and RadioShack are also implementing similar systems.

I guess the biggest risk here is that part time work will no longer as reliable as it once was, but instead workers will have to be extremely flexible. Although I would hope that if workers are being used more efficiently, they could be paid better for less time creating a win/win.

Either way, it’s an interesting article and worth a read.

More links:
companies that offer this software-
Kronos Inc

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