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The Third Shift Is Not Worth The Effort

Updated on May 3, 2013

Better to save the electricity

The Production World invented something called the third shift (aka Graveyard Shift, Night Shift, Late Shift and Midnight Shift) with the idea that it would result in increased productivity since the facilities would have able-bodied employees working around the clock. The morning shift would be replaced by the afternoon shift and then the third shift would arrive and supposedly continue to keep the output flowing. Well that was the theory.

One of the major problems with the third shift is that it takes place when the majority of people in this world are sleeping. Since we were trained as children to go to sleep at that time, we don’t adjust easily to the effort required for the late shift. Even with cash incentives known as shift bonuses (they are small since they all add to the cost of the product being produced) the quality worker (and manager) avoid this shift and do their best to leave it for the newer and less qualified and often younger worker.

In fact, no one wants to manage this shift either and sometimes it is “managed” by an on call manager who does so from their home. So the workers on the third shift learn how to work around this by “busting their butts” to get their quota done (usually smaller than shift one and two) so they can play since no one or very few managers are watching them closely.

As a former rental manager for an equipment rental house, I learned how these shifts operated especially on the third shift on the weekend. No one wanted to work Sunday night so they took it out on the equipment and the building. I had to deal with numerous customer damage claims that usually came to light on Monday morning. The equipment needed a service call since all manner of damage appeared. They raced the forklifts, ran them into support columns or trailers, punted stuff off the dock using the forklift as a battering ram, jousted with each other on the forklifts, etc. Generally speaking they operated the equipment in an extremely unsafe/dangerous manor since this was most often the night there was a manager on call only. Who wanted to work on a Sunday night? The answer is really no one did.

The failure of the third shift is probably the prime motivator for more and more automation of tasks that could be performed by human beings. Theoretically automation doesn’t take breaks of any kind and continues to output product unless it breaks down mechanically or is shut off by an operator (human or otherwise). Automation is fine as long as you only want the exact same thing every time and have lots of available buyers for your product. I have never known a machine that spends its earnings on consumer products.

The third shift is not a good answer for producing a quality product just like farming it out to third world countries is not a sustainable method either. One of the prime factors for a sustainable business selling consumer products is a large demand for its products. If there is no one in your country who can afford to buy the product, then there is no need for a third shift or off shore production.


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