Our Label and Packaging Materials plant at Champ sur Drac, France, is busy. “It runs “full-bore,” says operations manager Nick DiGrazia, “24/7, 360 days a year.” To keep up that pace, employees work one of three shifts, including two overnighters, six days a week, with four rest days between weeks.
But what happens as longtime employees lose their stamina or desire for working such an intense schedule?
Like many manufacturing companies, we’re facing the question of how to best meet the needs of loyal longtime employees—workers who might not quite be at retirement age, but who also might not be keen to continue physically taxing or time-consuming work. The team at Champ sur Drac recently arrived at an innovative solution to this challenge, spurred in part by France’s “generational contract,” which, among other things, requires companies to accommodate older workers.
Through a new arrangement called The Zeus Program, select longtime employees 55 and older are assigned to morning or afternoon shifts, Monday through Friday, meaning they no longer have to work nights or weekends. New employees are hired to staff the shifts the “Zeuses” don’t work; that cost is balanced by having Zeuses sub when other employees are sick or on vacation.
What’s more, anytime we need employees to participate in a kaizen or any other problem-solving project, our Zeuses are our go-to experts—we temporarily take them off the production line so that we can tap their expertise to improve processes or innovate for customers
“Some of our workers at Champ sur Drac have been with us for 30, 40 years,” says Nick. “That experience and knowledge are priceless. The other workers really respect them, because most people have been trained by one of them.”