Scheduling improvement is one of the cheapest and most effective ways for production companies to increase profitability. Very few (if any) companies fully utilize their resources. By better scheduling, they can increase throughput without having to spend additional money on additional resources—do more with what they already have.
Scheduling and schedule control is about execution. It is about organizing and managing production events as they unfold, i.e. managing short-term change. Done well it is a source of advantage in the marketplace; done poorly it offsets a company’s competitive strengths. There are 4 capabilities that every good scheduling system has.
Most important is for the schedule to work. Too often scheduling systems focus on maximization without first ensuring workability.
Schedule workability is only guaranteed by systems that are process-specific and capacity-based.
Unless all the steps in the process (and the manner and sequence in which they are performed) are considered during scheduling, the schedule risks failing, resulting in wasted resources.
The system must be customized and exactly suited to the company’s work delivery process and resource limitations.
Many companies purchase off-the-shelf scheduling software applications. These generic systems are designed for commercial viability and target a range of different companies and industries. They rarely ideally suit any particular work delivery process and tend to neutralize a company’s production strengths and weaken its competitive (or potential competitive) advantages in the marketplace.
For most companies the time in which to prepare schedules is short—for many, 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. Slow systems cause production delays and unhappy customers. The scheduling mechanism must be fast, flexible and interactive—when time is of the essence the user needs the system to respond in real-time as he enters data into the system and simultaneously schedules the work.
Every scheduling algorithm is a simplified model of the actual production process with many assumptions built into it. The variables around which the application is designed are fewer than the variables existing in the actual process. The scheduler must be able to manually intervene and override the scheduling algorithm when unusual or unforeseen production situations arise. A good system enables him to compare the effects of his decisions as he makes them.
Companies that rely on off-the-shelf software applications can produce schedules quickly. These applications are fast because they are usually black box solutions—the data is entered at the front end with the schedule coming out the other almost immediately. However, they do not offer interaction with the user, lack the flexibility of manual overrides and do not quantify and compare available schedule options.
3. Short-Interval Control
The format in which the schedule is communicated to those responsible for the work must allow for easy collection of production data and real-time control. Capturing data on a short-interval basis is essential for monitoring production performance and identifying schedule variances. It facilitates real-time decision-making and immediate corrective action. The earlier a variance is identified the easier it is to take corrective action and the 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. The schedule must adjust to events in real-time.
As soon as a schedule variance is identified, it must be dealt with. If the original schedule is irretrievable, the schedule may need to be updated and re-issued mid-shift. The sooner it is updated the less likely it will become obsolete. The same accuracy and agility with which schedules are generated at the start of the shift applies here too.
However, there is a third solution—Excel. Most companies underestimate the capabilities and advantages of Excel as a scheduling tool. Two Global Eyes has extensive experience in developing and installing Excel-based scheduling systems. The advantages of using Excel as a scheduling tool are:
For a demonstration of a customized Excel-based scheduling system, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (905)-630-1003.
Brentt Bugler is the founder of Two Global Eyes. He has successfully developed and installed cost-effective customized corporate solutions on four continents covering a broad spectrum of industries for the past 25 years. He is a process improvement specialist with extensive experience in the manufacturing, construction, and project management industries.