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DFG project SuPerPlan: Sustainable personnel planning for companies with fluctuating demand

DFG project SuPerPlan: Sustainable personnel planning for companies with fluctuating demand

Even with fluctuating demand, it can be attractive for companies to conclude long-term employment contracts. The project SuPerPlan develops concepts for sustainable production management by using modern optimisation techniques. 


Consumers today expect to receive exactly what they need – at the right time, without lead times. These demands pose a tremendous challenge for production companies. The selective overloading of individual production areas or work stations can occur. 


An example: If many orders with feature A are to be processed in the next hour, work stations that are responsible for the assembly of feature A can become overloaded during this hour. If only orders without feature A follow, the corresponding stations are empty. 


One way to counteract such overloads is with the concept of work sharing – a flexible redistribution of employees between stations, in which those colleagues currently experiencing an overload can be supported. The research cooperation SuPerPlan is developing optimisation techniques to coordinate such processes and subsequently enable increasingly sustainable staff planning.


“Whether it’s organising a family party or a large construction project: without a refined feel for coordination, well-intentioned support can easily have the opposite effect,” explains Professor Alena Otto, holder of the Chair of Business Administration with a focus on Management Science/Operations and Supply Chain Management, who is supervising the project from the University of Passau’s point of involvement. “This is even more so the case for manufacturing companies, where several hundred highly complicated orders are often handled in one shift.” The coordination of work sharing is to be supported by holistic planning that takes human aspects into account, as well as being able to react flexibly in day-to-day business. From a formal perspective, work sharing results in issues that are difficult to solve and require the targeted use of modern techniques from the field of Management Science. 


One important prerequisite for work sharing is long-term skills management, in particular, the vocational training and provision of further education for staff in specifically compiled qualifications. This gives permanent staff a special role in work sharing. This contradicts the widely-held notion that volatility in demand always requires the use of low-skilled, temporary staff. “We, therefore refer to work sharing as sustainable human resource planning”, says Otto.


The acronym SuPerPlan stands for Sustainable Personnel Planning in Highly Customised Assembly Lines with work Sharing. The project is being funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and is a form of cooperation with the University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg (Professor Dominik Kreß), the University of Siegen (Professor Erwin Pesch) and the Kedge Business School France (Professor Olga Battaia). 


Professor Otto’s sub-project is running from 1 February 2020 to 31 December 2021. Due to corona-related interruptions, an extension of the project’s duration is currently being sought.


Principal Investigator(s) at the University Prof. Dr. Alena Otto (Lehrstuhl für Betriebswirtschaftslehre mit Schwerpunkt Management Science / Operations and Supply Chain Management)
Project period 01.02.2020 - 31.01.2022
Source of funding
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft > DFG - Sachbeihilfe
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft > DFG - Sachbeihilfe
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