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?