Production scheduling is the process of planning, controlling, and optimizing work performed in a manufacturing process.
It involves allocating production assets, planning labor requirements, planning production processes, and purchasing materials.
Done well, production scheduling allows manufacturers to perform at maximum efficiency while also providing their customers with reliable delivery and lead times.
Global supply chains are facing unprecedented disruptions from a perfect storm of events. Problems with shipments and deliveries caused by coronavirus-related restrictions have been exacerbated this year by events that include the U.S. Big Freeze in February, the Suez Canal blockage, container shortages and, more recently, bottlenecks and closures at some of the world’s major ports.
Trying to schedule production against this backdrop is extremely challenging, and companies may struggle to accurately plan their requirements for both securing raw materials and meeting customers’ demands.
Demand planning involves forecasting customer demand so companies can gauge how much to produce, leveraging several information sources that include customer sales orders and sales forecasts, historical sales data, and sometimes forecast data from external sources such as IHS Markit.
Supply planning – or managing inventory levels to meet forecast targets – generates forecasts and purchase order requirements for suppliers, along with a near-term production schedule.
While demand and supply planning both look to the future, production scheduling has more of a near-term focus. A production schedule may be built with a one-to-four-week horizon, whereas demand and supply plans may extend as far ahead as 12 months.
The more accurate your forecast and purchase requirements are for your suppliers, the more likely they will be able to supply material on time to support your production schedule.
The Right Tools for the Job
“Supply chains are a mess at the moment, particularly for chemicals, but Datacor provides a toolset for manufacturers to adjust their production schedules in response to changing situations,” according to Datacor’s product manager Jeff O’Brien.
Scheduling manufacturing aims to minimize operational time and costs by planning when to make a product, using specific equipment, and appropriately skilled staff. The schedule will factor in forecast and sales order demand and the required raw materials and resources to manufacture the products ordered by customers at the right time.
Done correctly, production scheduling will ensure your process performs at maximum efficiency, balancing manufacturing needs with available resources in the most cost-efficient way and fulfilling orders on time – without interruptions or delays.
Most of the value created in manufacturing is on the shop floor, says O’Brien, whether you manufacture your own products or operate as a third-party contractor. However, the shop floor is also where much of the cost and risk to a business occurs. Building a feasible, optimized schedule for production to execute can minimize the cost and risk.
As an example, take a company that produces laundry detergent. It makes some products with scent, some with no scent and some with a strong scent. The manufacturer could run its production batches from no scent to strong scent to minimize clean-down time between batches. Alternatively, it could decide to produce products with a common chemical back-to-back before moving to another set of products.
Putting Plans in Place
So, what components are needed to build a good manufacturing schedule? First is an accurate demand plan that ensures you know what must be produced to satisfy customer demand. Second, accurate supplier forecasts and purchase requirements will help ensure enough material supply is available to support your production needs.
A third and final requirement is an understanding of your operation and how it impacts production. For example, how many machines are available, and at what rate do they produce? Which products can be run on which machines? How much labor is required to run each machine or product?
Maximizing asset utilization could be the difference between being able to accept a new order or not. If a business could improve its production schedule by 5% or 10%, it could grow revenue without having to install extra equipment, employ additional people, or expand into a new warehouse.
Just as important as building a feasible schedule is the ability to provide the highest level of service possible to customers. An accurate and robust manufacturing schedule allows companies to provide customers with reliable scheduled delivery and lead times, which can also bring a competitive advantage if they can give a shorter lead time than their rivals.
Supply chain planning and Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) assist businesses with demand and supply planning activities and production scheduling. When used correctly, they can help combat supply chain challenges, bring stability to the business, and provide a high level of service to customers.
Datacor’s solution supports these processes, enabling businesses to make sense of demand and procure material on time. The Production Scheduler provides a timeline-based view of each work center’s schedule. An intuitive drag-and-drop interface allows schedules to be built and adjusted to meet changing conditions. Built-in validation ensures batches are scheduled to approved work centers, when material is expected to be available, and with respect to other business constraints.
Companies’ capabilities are built into the system so that it fits with their operational processes. Datacor has plans to extend the software, adding more components into its scheduling tool so that manufacturers can consider additional constraints within their business and optimize their production scheduling further. Plans include, for example, providing the ability to understand how differences in capacity, capability and run rates on different equipment affect the production schedule.
Datacor will also be providing features that make it easier for manufacturers to manage inputs into their schedule, as well as reporting capabilities that give the scheduler and production team members visibility into the current schedule and how to meet it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Master Production Scheduling?
The use of software to help manufacturers plan what products need to me made, when, and how many.
How can I better manage supply chain disruptions with an MRP?
An MRP system forecasts the raw materials needed to make a product and meet customer demand.
What are the benefits of inventory management software?
A decent chemical inventory management system should be reliable, accurate, and accessible when and where you need it.