On time delivery Featured

11:55am EDT August 26, 2003
Alan Robbins, president of Akron-based The Plastic Lumber Co., ran into a problem that many manufacturers face: Getting employees to show up on time for work.

With multiple shifts, it 's important that the person on the next shift be there on time so that the machine can seamlessly be handed off without disrupting the production process.

"When the person shows up 10 or 15 minutes late, it ends up being disruptive to the business," says Robbins.

When the company went through rapid growth -- going from three employees to as many as 62 -- the problem became even bigger. The result is the no-fault points program, which can be customized to emphasize the areas that are important to your company.

For Robbins, it was tardiness and attendance.

An employee might be allotted 10 minutes of tardiness for the entire week. Anything over that results in a two-point penalty. Being late an hour is five points. If someone doesn't show up, it's 15.

"At certain thresholds, we monitor it," says Robbins. "At 20 points, we physically sit down with the person and talk to them to try to understand what is going on. We explain how important it is that they come to work on time."

Sometimes there are issues outside of work that are causing the behavior, such as a terminally ill family member, but Robbins says it's often just irresponsible behavior.

"You have to think of all the human scenarios," says Robbins. "Just having a points system doesn't do everything. You have to have an assistance program and give counseling."

As points accumulate, more intervention occurs. When employees reach the 30-40 point range, they are counseled again and asked if they need outside help or something other than what is offered in the assistance program.

"At 50 points, they are gone," says Robbins. "There is no saving them. From our side, it provides a way of measuring and getting rid of unmotivated employees."

Employees with excellent attendance records earn financial bonuses.

The program has also had other benefits: The company has not lost any contested unemployment claims since it was implemented.

In the seven years the program has been in place, it has been fine-tuned a few times but has worked well for Robbins. The accountants handle the tallying of points by examining time cards to see when people punched in and out.

"That's good, because it diffuses hostile issues with the supervisor," says Robbins. "Otherwise, people might try to play favorites and not recognize points."

The system is also used as a punitive measure for employees who miss a safety meeting or face other disciplinary issues. An employee who tests positive for drug or alcohol is assessed 15 points.

"You have to decide what's important to your business and design it accordingly," says Robbins. "It has to be modeled properly. If someone decides to circumvent the system and gets away with it, that's a bad thing. If that becomes prevalent, it can blow up the whole system.

"The system is probably not for everybody. In a manufacturing environment with growth issues, it has worked very well explaining the issues of good attendance and showing up to work clean and sober. These are all paramount to running a successful business.

"We wanted to be firm but fair in resolving these problems with something that wasn't overly punitive. We had to look at how we could create a scenario that supports good behavior and protects us from bad behavior, and the no-fault program does that." How to reach: The Plastic Lumber Co., www.plasticlumber.com