There are many strategies and tools that can be adopted by manufacturers to enhance their operations, particularly when it comes to matters of production. One such tactic is scheduling, and the software that can be embraced to facilitate this.
In our latest blog, we look at exactly what manufacturing scheduling software is, why it’s so important for manufacturers, and how production scheduling differs from production planning.
We also explain how to put a schedule in place, some of the challenges you may face when doing this, and which software is best for achieving the desired results in this domain.
What is manufacturing scheduling software?
A production schedule is used by manufacturers to provide a timeframe for their production activities. It is essentially a calendar that will detail when individual aspects of the product creation cycle are occurring.
By having this schedule, it creates more accountability, so that important tasks can be completed, rather than just hoping the obligation will be fulfilled at some point. It provides a deadline too, so that activities can be completed on time.
Additionally, it helps with managing resources. The appropriate equipment, machinery, materials, and employees can be in the right place at the right time when you know the exact timings of certain stages.
Manufacturing scheduling software is a digital system that enhances this process. There are a lot of variables that make up a production schedule, which can make it a very difficult task without technological help.
What is the difference between production planning and production scheduling?
Production planning and scheduling are often used interchangeably, and whilst there is some undoubtable overlap, it’s important to be aware of the nuanced differences. Production planning is more wide-ranging and is concerned with the ‘what’. The plan will encompass the whole production process, so that the manufacturer is prepared from start to finish (and for every aspect of product creation).
A production schedule will just concern itself with the ‘when’, and is a smaller component of the wider production plan. Production planning allows manufacturers to determine a clear framework so that the expected outcomes can be achieved (which provides them with more control).
What are the main production scheduling challenges?
There are certain factors associated with a manufacturer’s production schedule that, if managed poorly, can lead to negative outcomes. It’s important to note that effective production scheduling software can help to minimise these risks. Here are a few examples of common scheduling challenges:
It can be a temptation for any business to be overly optimistic with regards to their capacity, as they of course want to generate the highest income possible. But taking on too much, and filling the calendar to its absolute maximum, can actually cause decreased revenue. Employees will likely become overworked, leading to discontentment and poorer performance. Equipment is also more likely to become damaged if it is overused, and customers will become dissatisfied if you’re unable to keep up with the demand you’ve committed to.
If you source raw materials from an unreliable supplier, this could easily throw a spanner in the works for your production schedule. If some materials were to arrive a day or two late, it may mean that production cannot begin. You should be sure that any potential new partner has good credentials. And it may be time to end an existing partnership if performance is consistently bad.
Lack of cohesion
If there’s no integration between the separate components of your business, this can create a lot of contradiction and ambiguity around your production schedule. There should be regular interaction between all involved with the process, with an easy flow of information. Otherwise, the operation could fall apart, as employees won’t have a unified idea of what is happening (and when).
If a deviation from the intended course were to occur during the production cycle, there’s a risk it could create a ripple effect that is detrimental to the wider supply chain. For example, a piece of machinery could become faulty, which means the expected schedule can no longer take place. In this scenario it is important to use a system that is flexible and can quickly account for alterations (so long as everyone has awareness around any changes).
The sheer complexity of a production schedule can create challenges for manufacturers. There are a lot of moving parts during the product creation process, and a lot of variability in terms of the way a schedule can be configured. It can be difficult to know what’s the best route to take. And all it takes is one poor decision for performance to be hindered.
How to make a manufacturing production schedule?
When creating a production schedule, a good place to start is by looking at some of the different types of schedules that exist, and using the most appropriate one for your operation. Here are a few examples of some well-known scheduling strategies:
Infinite capacity scheduling
With this approach, the business assumes their equipment/machinery possesses unlimited capacity, and they use this logic to determine how many orders they take on. The capacity of these resources is then increased appropriately (or extra resources are added) to deal with this demand effectively.
Finite capacity scheduling
Conversely, with the finite strategy, the manufacturer will start by calculating the maximum capacity of their existing resources. They will then use this knowledge to dictate the amount of work they take on, being sure not to overextend themselves by exceeding this capacity.
Backward incremental scheduling
This scheduling philosophy puts an emphasis on the deadline date (i.e., the time at which production must be completed to deliver to the customer when expected). Based on this, each stage of production will be scheduled so that the product is completed on this date.
Forward incremental scheduling
In contrast to the previous approach, this philosophy places importance on commencing and completing production as soon as feasibly possible. From the moment the order is placed, materials travel through each stage of the cycle as soon as the schedule allows (so as soon as the required machinery is available).
Make to stock scheduling
Make to stock is an approach whereby businesses are influenced by seasonality and past performance data. If they are reasonably sure that a specific time of year is busy, they will schedule for a large volume of production in the build-up to this period, so that goods are on hand to be distributed right away.
Make to order scheduling
This strategy is suited to those manufacturers that provide personalised products for customers (or goods that expire very quickly). Rather than scheduling a batch of products, they will wait for an order to be placed, and then create the bespoke item. This helps to ensure customer satisfaction, as otherwise they will end up with undesired specifications (if production is scheduled in advance).
How does manufacturing scheduling software help?
The right software solution should be able to deal with complexity in a simple fashion, by considering all production-related data, and enabling the best possible schedule based on the resources available (and the urgency of different orders).
Here are a few other benefits created by manufacturing scheduling software:
With an optimal schedule for every aspect of the production process, there’s far less hesitance and reduced downtime. This means that the manufacturing of products can be quick and continuous, leading to shorter cycles and greater produce.
A larger amount of produce in a shorter period of time means that you have the capacity to deal with greater demand. If you can take on more work, a higher volume of sales can be processed, ultimately leading to better revenue (and hopefully improved profitability too).
Greater customer satisfaction
With a faster turnaround, and clarity around timings/responsibilities, there should be fewer bottlenecks and less delays. Promises can be met, customers can be kept in the loop, and products can be delivered on time, resulting in greater buyer satisfaction. This makes it more likely that they will continue to purchase from you, and they may even spread the word about your good service.
A centralised pool of schedule-related data leads to better visibility among employees, as it creates one version of the truth that can be accessed in a single location. This inevitably reduces confusion and creates synchronisation, as every person involved in production is using the same information. It should also mean that machinery isn’t double-booked.
Correct material quantities
By having clarity on exactly what is happening, and at which time, it becomes possible to determine the exact number of materials that are needed for each coming production cycle. With less guesswork in this area, you’re far more likely to maintain sensible numbers. Too few would leave you unable to complete the job, and too much would be a waste of money.
A lot of time can be spent trying to rectify scheduling mistakes. Production scheduling software leaves less room for human error, as more of the process is automated and fuelled by accurate data. A smart system can consider sales orders, inventory levels and existing schedules to calculate the best solution with fewer imperfections.
Next steps in your production scheduling software journey
At Advanced, we provide businesses with cloud-based Manufacturing Software, which possesses sophisticated production scheduling functionality. With this system work orders can be scheduled with ease, and users receive instant feedback on the progress of proceedings.
It empowers manufacturers with a high level of control over their operation, by clearly demonstrating the status of every order (and where said order sits in the production cycle). This means that employees know exactly what needs to be done next, and customers can be given an accurate timeframe.
Not only this, but Manufacturing Software is an all-encompassing business management solution too, meaning that your production planning activity is interconnected with your sales, stock, and accounting information, making automation a real possibility.
All departments have visibility over the bigger picture and have a clear view of any plans in place. Cloud functionality enables updates to be made instantly, and the built-in reporting ensures real insights can be gained from this accurate data in order to improve performance.
If you’re wanting to enhance your production scheduling process with the help of transformative technology, take a more detailed look at our Manufacturing Software, which is perfect for small to medium-sized manufacturers.