The IE Formula

I used to say that being an IE (as in BSIE) was my choice but being an IE (the job) was not my plan.

When I was in 4th-year high school, I wanted to either be an accountant or a Chemical Engineer. It all changed when my aunt’s BFF’s brother explained to me what being an Industrial Engineer was all about. It did not end there because a month later, it was my friend’s father who convinced me to try Industrial Engineering. So during the freshman enrollment, there I was falling in line under “BSIE 1.”

Two months before graduation, I joined the campus job fair in the hope of landing a job as a Quality Control Engineer. A week after the graduation, I went to the final interview, and to my surprise, the offer was an IE job instead of a QA! The disappointment was short-lived because I learned to love my job afterwards.

I learned that being an IE is not all about Motion and Time study. An IE must know the principles of Productivity, Efficiency, Quality and Human Factors by heart. When the system is working good given these principles, there will be profit because of lesser costs.

I learned that being an IE means spending at least 60% of your time in the shop floor. You need to see the problems. Do not rely on the data given to you. Always challenge the data, even the ones that you, yourself have prepared.

I learned that it was hard to convince that the work and time standards that you set were good. Some would even question how you conducted the motion and time study. Do not get intimidated by angry subjects and process owners because it is our job to set the correct work and time standard. Do not get influenced by fake productivity or even fake unproductivity. When you are confident about your data and as well as the number of samples you took, the margin of error would be small and insignificant to affect the time standard. This is also the reason why I encourage you to spend more time in the shop floor because you can see any obvious production variations that happened within the shift. Do not be too bookish, either. The purpose of shop floor immersion is for you to get familiar with the individual capabilities of the machines or manpower. Listen to the workers’ feedback and make an objective and thorough analysis to avoid suggesting a wrong solution. Make a realistic timeline of your study and avoid falling into the trap of focusing on the “favorite problem” of the process, work station or manpower.

There are available tools that can help you analyze better and faster like the software for statistical process control, lay-outing, simulation, and even motion and time study. But of course, you need to be familiar with the different formulas so that you can validate if the software is giving you the correct answer or you can check if you set the correct parameters.

Attached is the most common IE formulas for our common reference.


Graveyard Shift

A night duty in the Philippines means working from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. In my first job, there were times when I had to report to work from 7:00 PM to 3:00 AM. I needed to extend my duty until sunrise for safety reasons. During my first night duty, I fell asleep during the meal-break and woke up three hours later! Ironically, I had difficulty falling asleep at the dorm because the night duty broke my circadian rhythm. Fast-forward to my second job, I was one of those who rendered a twice a month night duty to monitor the 3rd shift operation. As I grew older, I noticed that my body could tolerate fewer hours of sleep unlike when I was in my early 20s.

Personally, working on a graveyard shift gives me the freedom to make use of my time as productive as possible. When the mind is productive, your body will forget about sleeping. The Philippine labor law entitles night shifters to night differential allowance, too. Call centers and BPOs have unlimited coffee supply to keep employees awake and attentive. Freelancers who have internet connectivity issues prefer the graveyard shift for a faster and more reliable net connection.

Certainly, proximity to work affects one’s decision to agree on a graveyard shift. If travel time eats most of an employee’s time, then a graveyard shift becomes a burden. Those who work at night need more rest and sleep than their morning or mid-shift counterparts. If you are working from home, this should not be much of a problem because you can just rest or sleep after your shift.

The real concern among graveyard shifters is the difference in waking and sleeping time between them and their family members. Let’s say you are working from Monday to Friday from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. You need to sacrifice your Saturday sleep in case your children or family member ask you for some bonding moments. Your real free time would be the whole day of Sunday because your children or a family member are most likely busy on a Monday morning. Unlike a regular shift, a graveyard shift does not enjoy the Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday night bonding.

But yes, spending your bonding moments with your loved ones is case to case basis. Some prefer to maximize their time while the children are young and some have the luxury of time to do whatever they want with their free time.

The Pains and Gains of Freelancing

I signed up for a freelancing website in 2017, hoping to get a gig. I got the idea from a high school classmate who, until now, is doing well as a freelancer. Almost four years ago, the demand for freelancers was not that high. The clients’ requirements did not fit into my qualifications as a manufacturing engineer. Hence, I had a very slim chance then to land a job.

Pre-covid, I wanted to spend more time with my young children, and what a better way to do that than to find a source of income in the comforts of our home. Four years ago, most Pinoy freelancers had little idea of what a Virtual Assistant is. Perhaps, some would even get confused about the roles of a Social Media Marketer. I’m pretty sure that only a few could answer about the difference between Amazon’s FBA versus FBS. Time is continuously changing and upgrading, especially in 2020, when the pandemic hit us. Today, E-Commerce becomes one of the most promising careers, and the influx of professionals wanting to become Virtual Assistants rocked the freelancing industry. On top of this, it looks like the Work From Home set-up made the companies realize that it is possible to have a productive and efficient remote workforce. (A reliable internet connection is another story.)

Of course, being a freelancer means knowing what you can bring to the client’s table. Just like working in a traditional workplace, a freelancer ought to have the right skills for the right job. Otherwise, you will start at the bottom. No worries, that’s fine as long as you are flexible and hardworking. Learn as many tools as possible because freelancers are working on their own. Most of the clients have limited time to even talk with you regularly. So don’t be surprised, too, if they ask you to install apps to monitor your daily tasks. Sample of these time and productivity tracking apps are Timeproof and Hubstaff. Some clients are very particular about the confidentiality of their data. Instead of these tracking apps, they would require you to connect to their company laptop or server and do the job from there. (Again, a reliable internet connection is another story.) If being “monitored” bothers you, you can accept jobs per project. Projects do not pay by the hour and do not require these time and productivity tracking apps. These jobs pay by the quality and delivery of your output, like logo design, video editing, and IT-related jobs like web design and development.

Those who think that being a freelancer means “owning” your time, I hope that you find a client that has a similar mindset. Some clients do not care about time and productivity as long as you do your job well. On the other hand, some jobs require your time and full attention to the whole shift, so babysitting while working may not work out. There is also the issue of getting multiple clients on the same work shift. If it’s okay with your client, then go for it. Otherwise, pick the best client and drop the rest. Make it a goal to produce only the best output for your clients because they hired us to do the job.

Cultural and language differences can be tricky and challenging at the beginning of your client-contractor relationship. To establish a good rapport with your client, do a little research about their culture and work ethics. Maintain a professional but friendly working relationship. Clients from the US generally prefer to be called by their first names and avoid the formality that “Ma’am” or “Sir” brings in. If they insist to be called Mr. or Miss or Mrs. plus their last name, it is okay, too.

Forget about the Philippine holidays once you become a freelancer. If you are used to spending your local holidays, get used to working during most Philippine holidays. Overtime pay for a holiday does not apply to freelancers. Well, some generous clients give holiday pay, though. If you are excited about the 13th- month pay, remember that freelancers do not have it. Freelancers pay their SSS, Philhealth, and PAGIBIG contributions out of their own pocket. So the goal here is to increase your hourly $ rate so that you can afford to go on a holiday and pay your SSS, Philhealth, and PAGIBIG contributions. Don’t forget to get a life or health insurance, too. If you are earning more than PhP30,000 a month, you need to pay your taxes.

Most contractors run after Australian clients because of the narrow difference between our time zones. Most clients come from the US so ready yourself to work on a graveyard shift. Graveyard shift takes a lot of effort and determination to embrace and love. The advantage of a graveyard shift is a quieter environment and a faster internet connection. If background noise is an issue for your client, there are noise-cancellation headsets available in the market.

In summary, being a freelancer is a choice as much as working on a traditional work set-up is an option. If you are tired of things like long transportation to work, dressing up, leaving your young kids to the yaya alone, then freelancing might be the right job for you. Just remember that it is not all pain (lifestyle adjustment, lack of clients, low hourly rate), there are also gains in the end.

When Good Employees Must Leave

Let’s talk about retrenchment as it is a very timely topic.

Left and right, we hear about companies letting go of their people. The tourism industry was greatly affected and so companies in the aviation business started laying-off their people as early as March. Tourist destinations were closed and the usually crowded places like Baguio imposed a very strict lockdown protocol that even their locally stranded individuals (LSI) had a hard time returning home. And just when we were getting used to the Airbnb services, these too were directly hit by the pandemic.

What could be one of any organization’s challenging decisions than letting go of their GOOD employees?Certainly, we’re talking about those employees who are performers; those who would walk an extra mile just to get the job done; those employees whose reliability cannot be questioned; those who would sacrifice a little comfort just to deliver; those who are respectful and team-players; those who are smart and do not need much supervision; those who have no attendance or tardiness problem because they respect everyone’s time. In short, who in their right minds and fair hearts would let go of such employees?

We all want to have good employees on our team. And the worst part of this Covid-19 crisis is the decision to let go of the good ones. Thus, it is forgivable if some companies find it hard to tell the employment status of their good employees. Maybe they’re avoiding the drama. Perhaps they’re thinking more than thrice if they can still reverse the management’s decision. Possibly, they just want their good employees to take the cue and leave.

But, should management keep silent on their manpower plans and just wait for the right time to announce the lay-off? Surprisingly, the answer must be YES.

Yes, the management should avoid any pre-mature press release until the following are final: 

  1. retrenchment package
  2. reorganization
  3. turnover plan

Under Article 298 of the Labor Code, companies are allowed to scale down its operations in order to save themselves from further losses. Retrenched employees are given either a full-month salary or a half-month salary x 15 days x years in service—whichever is higher. Please take note that this is just a basic computation as packages differ from company to company.

The company must ready the reorganization plan because letting go of people means the transfer of tasks to the employees that will be left behind. On the other hand, some companies assess their workforce and redesign the table of organization to simplify the roles and tasks. The challenging part of the reorganization is assigning leaders who are capable of unifying their members to achieve the company’s new goals. Don’t forget to consider the concerns of those employees who would be left behind because there could be undocumented tasks that they are doing that could add to their workload. In short, re-organized tasks must be written because new KPIs and deliverables are expected to emerge from these changes.

Once the reorganization plan is done, it’s now time to talk to the employees that would be retrenched to prepare them for the turnover activity. Retrenchment letter must be sent to the concerned employees by mail or through e-mail. Definitely, it pays to be transparent and empathetic, too by informing them ahead of these notifications about their employment status. Effective communication and honesty are important when telling people about their work termination because if not, the turnover plan will not be successful.

Bosses can also offer to recommend the retrenched employees to other companies who might need their services. It is called an outplacement program. It creates a friendly exit between the bosses and the employees instead of bad memories. Who knows, you’ll end up working in the same company someday. Even luckier, what if your former staff becomes your boss or CEO years later? Nothing is impossible, right?

When it seems that there is no hope, remember that good employees never run out of jobs; whenever, wherever.

We are not just talking about employment opportunities here but other activities that are income-generators, as well. There’s a story about a flight attendant who used her cooking and baking skills to sell foods while on lockdown. I personally know of retrenched employees who put up a sari-sari store, a motor shop and also those who turned turned pottery and plant hobbies into business. The shift to homebased jobs or online jobs through the freelancing sites also give people an opportunity to earn while taking care of the household. It takes a lot of courage to start over again in these difficult times. I call it a leap of faith.

Dream Big Like Judy

“He was right about one thing. I don’t know how to quit.” Are you familiar with that dialogue? That is Judy Hopps, the bunny, from Zootopia. In case you are not familiar, Judy is a little bunny who dreams to be a police officer despite the resistance of her parents who wanted her to be a carrot farmer. Not that there is something wrong with being a carrot farmer but Judy feels that she is destined for another profession- being a police officer. She encounters challenges along the way like trying hard to fit in in the academy full of larger animals and proving to her boss that she can make it. Her biggest challenge is arresting the cunning Nick Wilde, a streetsmart fox who later becomes her pal and partner.

  1. Dream big- it doesn’t matter if the dream is impossible to achieve. When you dream big, you try to learn new things that will help you achieve it. You try to meet people who can be your mentor. You try to make things happen because you want to hit your target. Even if your big dream does not come true, you are still left with the learnings and lessons that you can use for your next dreams
  2. Upgrade your skills- some jobs become obsolete so workers lose their source of livelihood. With the continuous upgrade in technology, automation and robotics will become a trend in the next years to come. If you can’t upgrade your skills, you need to have other skills to offer.
  3. Do not be complacent- when you are working in a stable company, surrounded by nice people, and receiving a good salary, do not assume that this will last forever. When calamity strikes, even the richest company is prone to closure. People move around so your next teammate may not be as nice as the one who left. Save and invest a portion of your salary so that when a time like the pandemic comes, you and your family will survive. 
  4. Check your connections- evaluate the people that you are hanging out with if they add value to your life. Review if you have the same principles and interests. Do they cheer you up or do they put you down? Do they support your endeavors or do they laugh at your dreams? Connect with people who can give you the right advice should you need it in the future. Connect with people who can mentor you into something that you want to become. Connect with people that mutually share your passion.
  5. Learn from your experience- there will be times of plenty and times of scarcity. Remember what went right when you accomplished something and remember what went wrong for your failed endeavors. Learn to adapt to different seasons.
  6. Do not get intimidated- David beat Goliath because he was confident that he could do it. Believe that you can do something because nobody will believe in you unless you trust yourself that you can make it. 
  7. Always have a back-up plan- when planning, consider three possible scenarios: best case, normal case, and worst case. This will allow you some flexibility in terms of resources and time. Strategize well.
  8. Practice documentation- create a list of the things that you want to accomplish in a dashboard format so that you can visualize how near or far you are to your target.
  9. Be cautious of people that you deal with- some people appear to be helping you but are trying to put you down. Be kind but be a little skeptical.
  10. Follow your instinct- if something is not right, it probably is not right. If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. 

There’s a little or a lot of Judy Hopps in us; dreaming big and trying to be the best person but circumstances will not allow. How do we overcome our fears and insecurities the way Judy did it? 

After reading this, try to list down the dreams that you have accomplished vs the dreams that you have yet to accomplish. You might be surprised to know that most of your dreams have been fulfilled. If this is not the case, then consider today as the day that you decided to go after your dreams.