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Grievance Checklist

Grievance Checklist: Warehouse Production Standards

Warehouse production standards grievances arise when workers feel that the effort level required to meet the standard is unreasonable. In incentive systems grievances arise when workers feel that they cannot make a reasonable amount of money in return for a reasonable amount of effort.

Although engineered production standards can be set using careful and systematic work measurement techniques, the standards are certainly not scientific, nor are they "accurate" in any absolute sense. This is true of all work measurement techniques, since all depend on subjective judgments in all phases of their application. For this reason it makes little sense to think of standards as accurate or inaccurate. A standard is either acceptable or unacceptable to the people who work under it.

In arguing that a standard is unacceptable, a union representative must base their case on arguments the work measurement technique is inappropriate or it has been misapplied in setting the standard. Even though workers’ subjective judgments about effort levels required by a production standards may have equal validity to engineers’ claims that their standards (set by subjective techniques) are accurate, few arbitrators are impressed by workers’ opinions. The union representative is forced to use the logic or work measurement as the main tool in criticizing engineered production standards. This means that the representative must become familiar with work measurement concepts, learn how to make technical arguments and assemble technical evidence.

Kinds of Grievances and Complaints

Problems with the standards may be general or specific:

  • All standards may be considered too tight.

  • Standards may be too tight in particular areas of the warehouse.

  • Standards may be too tight under particular conditions or at particular times.

It is often difficult to get people to be specific about the exact nature of their problems but a clear definition may help identify the causes more rapidly.

Possible Problems/Resolutions with Warehouse Standards

  • Losing time/inadequate delay allowance

    • How did the company determine its delay allowance?

    • Obtain copies of any work sampling studies, all-day time studies, or other studies used in setting the delay allowance.

    • Document any changes in the warehouse that might make their studies obsolete.

    • Document all delay time that people are actually experiencing. Workers can keep logs or conduct time studies of a random sample of orders spread over a representative period (elements must be defined so that total delay time can be separated and totaled)

    • Attempt to negotiate the elimination of conditions that are causing delays, or an increase in the delay allowance.

  • Non-standard conditions/elemental times are inappropriate.

    • Determine as completely as possible where and under what conditions the elemental times were developed. (Warehouse layout, rack configuration, equipment used, etc., etc.)

    • Document differences between condition when the standards were set and current conditions in the warehouse.

    • Document specific cases where elemental times are inappropriately applied, i.e., standards set in two-tier racking and applied to three-tier racks.

    • Attempt to negotiate a reduction in the performance level at which the standards are enforced.

  • Extra work/work being done isn’t included as elements

    • Attempt to negotiate the elimination of conditions that are causing delays, or an increase in the delay allowance.

    • Carefully review the company’s system to make sure that the work is not included in an existing element.

    • Document that other production standard systems include elemental times for the work.

    • Document that people are actually doing the tasks using logs, activity (time) studies, or both.

    • Negotiate the inclusion of additional elemental times or an increase in delay allowance or a non-controversial downtime procedure.

  • Temporary deterioration of conditions

    • Document deterioration of conditions and lost time/extra work that results.

    • Negotiate an improvement in conditions, a suspension of standards, or a temporary allowance until problems are rectified.

  • Inappropriate work methods, unsafe, unrealistic, untrained workers, idealized method.

    • Document any elements that are unsafe or unrealistic (not readily attainable by a normal operator). Negotiate specific changes in methods and a procedure for determining new elemental times for the redefined elements.

    • Document absence of training or inappropriate training (who did the training – does the trainer know the method that the standards are based on?). Document workers’ deviations from this method using activity studies. Negotiate removal of discipline. Force the company to define exactly how the job is supposed to be done and properly train workers.

    • Document the differences between how people do the job and how the company says it can be done in its idealized method, usually a Predetermined Motion Time Study (PMTS) standard. Activity studies and videotapes might work well. Negotiate a reduction in the performance level at which standards are enforced.

  • Tight elemental times

    • Determine which elemental times you think are tight and by approximately how much. Doing snap-back studies of selected elements can do this. (Compare elemental times with those of other companies for the same work as a check if you have access and can make comparisons.)

    • Attempt to determine reasons for the tightness. Obtain copies of the original time studies/PMTS analysis. Check time studies for any of the following that you can:

      • Studies were done under unusually good conditions

      • Method excludes necessary work

      • Too many "throw-outs" with reasons not noted

      • Low performance rating factors

      • Arithmetic errors

        Check predetermined motion-time analysis sheets for any of the following:

        • Missing work

        • Unrealistic motion patterns

        • Error in transferring time values from the data card

        • Errors in simultaneous motions

        • Arithmetic errors

    • Indicate to the company that you feel that their elemental times are tight and reveal some of your challenges to their data. Suggest that you might be able to live with their standards if they were adjusted by an overall percentage figure or if the enforcement level was reduced.

  • Tight computer decision rules/inappropriate decision rules

    • Determine that basis by which the computer selects or calculates all elemental times.

    • Document all instances where the decision rules are unrealistic, inappropriate, and/or tight, i.e., Transco’s case handling times allow for only floor and shelf picks – are the shelf-pick times appropriate for there-tier racking?

    • Document the importance of the decision rule problems. List the elements that are affected, the extent of inadequacy of the elemental times and the estimated impact on the overall standard.

    • Attempt to negotiate a reduction in the enforcement level.

  • Decision rules inappropriate in certain area or at certain times

    • See 7(a) and (b)

    • Document the impact on work done in the area or during the problem times, the elements affected extent of impact and estimated impact on overall standard.

    • Negotiate an "area" or "special circumstance" allowance, i.e., an allowance that is paid only on work in the area or during the problem times.

  • Inadequate fatigue allowance.

    • Determine the procedure by which the company established their fatigue allowance. Get copies of any work physiology studies they did to check the adequacy of their allowance. Usually there will be none.

    • Document inconsistencies in size of fatigue allowance from warehouse to warehouse. This can be useful especially when consultants are involved.

    • Criticize the company’s numbers by demonstrating the physical impossibility of doing the work as specified in their fatigue tables. Demonstrate that these fatigue tables are based on subjective judgments rather than scientific study, ask them to produce the scientific studies that were used to determine the numbers on the table.

    • Conduct work physiology studies to document the inadequacy of their fatigue allowance figures be sure that your work physiologist has read the School for Workers NIOSH study and the Springfield, MO. Arbitration decision.

    • Negotiate a higher fatigue allowance or a lower enforcement level.