EFFECTIVE & AFFORDABLE SCHEDULING SYSTEMS—HOW TO GET ONE
A lot of companies schedule too far ahead—they think of scheduling as part of the production planning and preparation phase, rather than as part of the execution phase.
Scheduling is the organisation of confirmed work and the communication thereof to those responsible for delivering it in a format that enables short-interval control of the work during execution. Scheduling is about managing the here and now—it is not about predicting and planning for the future.
There are 4 key things that a reliable scheduling system must have.
THE 4 KEYS CHARACTERISTICS OF A SCHEDULING SYSTEM
The most important thing for a schedule is that it works—it must be process-specific and take into account the company’s capacity constraints. Unless all the steps in the process (and the manner and sequence in which they are performed) are considered during scheduling, the schedule will likely be flawed, resulting in wasted resources and unnecessary costs. A schedule can only be guaranteed workable if the scheduling system is customised and exactly suited to the company’s work delivery process. A second consideration for a scheduling system is the company’s resource limitations. Therefore, the system must factor in available capacity and incorporate a finite scheduling capability.
Generic off-the-shelf (OTS) scheduling applications are designed for a range of different companies and industries. They rarely ideally suit any particular work delivery process and tend to neutralise a company’s production strengths and neutralise its competitive (or potential competitive) advantages in the market place.
Most companies have little time to prepare schedules—for many processes, orders or cancellations are received minutes before and, in many cases, after shift start. Inputs into the scheduling system must be processed quickly and easily. Clumsy systems incur production delays and dissatisfied customers. The mechanism used for scheduling must be fast and flexible and, except for very simple processes, requires a partially automated software application.
Any scheduling algorithm is a simplified model of the actual production process with many assumptions built into it. The variables around which the application is built are fewer than those that exist in the actual process. Therefore, the system needs a mechanism which allows the scheduler to manually override the scheduling algorithm when unusual or unforeseen production situations arise. This capability gives the system flexibility and enables it to deal with an increased range of work situations whilst keeping the complexity of the scheduling system (in terms of required inputs, time, cost, etc.) at a lower and more manageable level.
A purchased, off-the-shelf software application is usually a black box solution. It is automated and require data to be entered at the front end and generates the final schedule at the other. These generic systems produce schedules quickly (once the input data has been entered) but are generic and lack the flexibility of a system that builds in appropriate manual overrides.
- Short-Interview Control
The format in which the schedule is communicated to those responsible for the work is important. It must enable easy collection of production data. The data is captured on a short-interval basis. This allows production performance to be monitored and identifies schedule variances as they occur. Such real-time control facilitates easy decision-making and immediate corrective action when needed. The earlier a variance is identified the easier it is to take corrective action it and lower is the risk of wastage and delays.
No matter how accurate and reliable the scheduling mechanism, unexpected conditions and events invariably occur and cause schedules to go off track during execution. When that happens the system must be able to deal with the situation effectively and efficiently. The first step after identifying a schedule variance is to decide what corrective action to take. If the original schedule is irretrievable, the schedule may need to be updated and re-issued mid-shift. The sooner and quicker it is updated the less likely it will become obsolete. The same accuracy and agility with which schedules are generated for the start of the shift is needed here too.
Commercially-available scheduling software applications are affordable for a lot of companies, but rarely meet the requirements of their production processes. On the other hand, scheduling systems custom-built by IT or software companies can meet companies’ process requirements but do not fall within the budgets of most companies.
However, there is a third alternative to the scheduling issue—Excel. Most companies underestimate the capabilities and advantages of Excel as a scheduling tool. Two Global Eyes has extensive experience developing and installing Excel-based scheduling systems. The advantages of using Excel as a scheduling tool are:
- It requires no additional capital expenditure—almost every company has it
- It has all the features and formulas necessary to a develop user-friendly system exactly suited to any process
- It can protect and secure all the formulas and data built into the system
- It is flexible and straightforward to change or add to as the process evolves
For more information and examples of scheduling systems visit www.twoglobaleyes.com or contact Two Global Eyes directly..