Tag Archive: Production scheduling

The Value of Process Flows

July 21st, 2015
process flows

Being a systems pragmatist is critical in not making assumptions about your processes, but rather review every production step to uncover any issues that were not being addressed.

When the idea of The Systems Pragmatist service line popped to mind, I was thinking about the critical importance of systems and processes. I had just left a strategy session with the former head of HR from Cisco, and she gave me a new respect for the value of process flows. Previous to that session, I saw them as just an assumed part of the process. It was great to gain a new appreciation for one of my strengths!

Thus, I thought I’d share the value of process flows. As much as we think we know our processes, we don’t. I’ve yet to find a situation where we didn’t learn something by creating and documenting process flows. For example, while working with a client on production scheduling, the supervisors and managers thought they knew what was being scheduled and the process to schedule it; however, they didn’t. When we documented the production schedule and associated processes, we found several scheduling issues no one was addressing. This simple finding led to dramatic improvements in service levels as we could better identify root causes.

Lately, I’ve been working with several clients to design and implement SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) programs as it is a great way to align all functions of the organization on one plan that also balances demand with supply. We recently developed process flows to support the demand and supply processes, and it was enlightening.  At a minimum, it provided clarity to the process steps and accelerated our progress because it facilitated communication and collaboration.

Process flows provide clarity in several respects: 1) Which direction the process flows. 2) Who is responsible for the process step. 3) Whether a decision is required. 4) The sequence of process steps. 5) A visual representation of the process.

Contrary to popular opinion, process flows do not have to be complex. Although Visio creates perfect process flows, it does not have widespread use. In the SIOP example above, we went down the simple path and created them in Excel.  Being fancy isn’t essential and can add complications. Consider what will facilitate communication, collaboration and aid in achieving results. Simplify and focus exclusively on what will provide value.  

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Production Scheduling

May 13th, 2014
The fun of production scheduling is also the most important aspect, managing competing priorities and variables to find the best overall solution.

The fun of production scheduling is also the most important aspect, managing competing priorities and variables to find the best overall solution.

Production scheduling has been a part of my expertise since my post-college days at Coca-Cola Enterprises. It has been a part of every job I’ve held (whether directly or indirectly) and a part of almost every project I’ve consulted on since. Thus, I have a passion for this topic.

I’ve always found production scheduling to be fun and exciting as you have the opportunity to optimize among competing priorities and variables (inventory levels/cash flow, service levels/sales, and costs/operational efficiencies) to find the best overall solution. The best production schedulers not only find the optimal answer but they also communicate effectively and align everyone on the same page. A tall order yet invaluable! A few considerations for success include:

1. Start with the customer – As with everything that pops to mind in business success, it’s best to start with the customer.  What does the customer need?  Understand your customer’s requirements and priorities.

2. Cycle time – How long does it take to run an item through the standard production process?  How does this compare with the customer’s lead time?  Are there unique materials /purchased components?  How does this affect your cycle time?

3. Understand cash flow – Follow the money!  Inventory ties up cash.  How much inventory do you need?  Why?  What does Finance expect you to produce?  It matters – without cash, your business will not thrive.

4. Consider operational efficiencies – Do you know the impact of your decisions? Are there changeovers (changes in size, color, etc.)?  If so, how long do they take?  Do some take longer than others?  Is there a sequence which makes more sense?  Can you work with operations to reduce the batch quantities?  

5. Understand staffing impacts – What is the regular schedule for Operations?  Will your schedule require overtime?  Hiring?  Temps?  Can you move volume among machines?  Machine groups?  In-house vs. outsource?  Can your schedule affect the skill requirements?  Perhaps you can optimize with the available staffing.

6.  Understand equipment and tooling impacts – Will your schedule affect the number or type of machines required?  Does flexibility trump capital costs?  

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