Like so many families with young children these days, our family’s weekends are filled with activities that keep my wife and I on the go almost every Saturday and Sunday. When we return to work on Monday, we often say: “Wow, Monday almost seems like a day to relax!”

As a researcher, I was aware of psychology studies that showed how many people experience the “Monday Blues,” a letdown returning to work after the weekend, with the next weekend seemingly a long way off. In business, there were studies showing that what was called the “Monday Effect” led to lower investment returns in finance than other weekdays, more workers’ compensation claims in industrial relations, lower worker productivity in labor economics, and even more workplace injuries on Mondays than on any other days of the week.

Since my research area is supply chain management, this all led me to wonder: Does the supply chain also suffer from the Monday Effect?

Yes, it does, according to a study, forthcoming in Information Systems Research, that I conducted with my colleagues Martin Dresner, professor, Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, and Kevin Zhu, Professor of Innovation, Technology and Operations, Rady School of Business at University of California San Diego. 

Using a dataset of more than 800,000 actual transaction records gathered during a 12-month period from the U.S. General Services Administration, we analyzed variations in operations performance by days of the week. What we found has important implications for supply chain managers, many of whom are likely unaware that they are losing performance and productivity on Mondays.

Countering the Monday Effect

We attribute the Monday Effect to a combination of process disruptions that occur when operations are shut down over the weekend and then restarted on Monday morning, as well as, potentially, human factors, ranging from the “Monday Blues” to lack of familiarity with certain products.

One of our key findings is that operations performance on Mondays is worse than other weekdays as measured by both order cycle time (the elapsed time between when a purchase order is received and when it is shipped) and order fulfillment (when the correct product is delivered on time, in the correct quantity, with no out-of-stocks or short shipments).

And, as our study states, “the Monday Effect is not trivial.” Order cycle time, for example, is 9.68 percent longer on Mondays than other weekdays, on average.

The important takeaway for supply chain managers is to take steps to specifically address performance gaps by countering the Monday Effect. These include adding staff on Mondays, reducing non-fulfillment activities and meetings on Mondays, and providing better training. And offering free coffee on Monday mornings or other simple morale-boosters couldn’t hurt.

The Role of IT

We also looked at the impact that technology has on the Monday Effect. We found that IT solutions, such as an automated order processing system, significantly reduces the performance gap for Mondays. Simply put, computers and machines don’t have the Monday Effect.

The results are eye-opening. Technology reduces the Monday Effect performance gap by 94 percent in order cycle time, 71 percent in complete orders fulfilled, and 80 percent in the percentage of orders with short shipments.

Clearly, the main takeaway for supply chain managers is to speed migration to online procurement. As we note in our study, “some leading firms are implementing new IT systems to minimize the impact of schedule and workload disruptions.”

The benefits of technology are especially pronounced for high-value, slow-moving products that are purchased far less frequently by a relatively small number of buyers than other products. As we state in our study: “Technology is more helpful in substituting for labor when humans are more prone to making mistakes.” That includes when they’re processing orders for products that are relatively unfamiliar.

“When a product is not frequently transacted, employees may not accumulate knowledge about the product, thus slowing the learning required to process the orders and increasing the likelihood of potential errors,” our study states.

That is underscored by the fact that reduction of short shipments achieved by technology is at least 25 percent greater for products with higher value, lower total sales, or fewer unique buyers.

Monday, Monday

When we set out to conduct our study, we searched the trade press to see if there had been any discussion of the Monday Effect on supply chain management. We found none. That raises the simple question: If companies are not aware that their supply chain performance is notably worse on Mondays than other weekdays, how can they possibly deal with it?

We hope our initial study raises awareness and stimulates further analysis and discussion. More than 50 years ago, the classic rock band The Mamas and the Papas had a huge hit with their song, “Monday, Monday,” which included the line: “Can’t trust that day.”

Supply chain managers need to know that they probably can’t, either, unless they adjust their current practices.