Every formula manufacturer performs some level of scheduling. Without a schedule or a plan, no plant could function for very long.
Based on our experience at Vicinity most of the schedules are manual in nature. However, as a manufacturing company keeps growing, the manual processes become burdensome and a drag on the manufacturing process.
Generally, you can break the scheduling process into two primary components, the production schedule, and the shop floor schedule.
Identifies what products you will be making, the quantity to make, and the start and end dates for the scheduled item. This manufacturing schedule does not attempt to assign resources such as machines or people. It is typically the result of measuring capacity and material availability against demand. The format provides an overview of what a company will make when it will be completed, and often shows data 1-2 weeks out.
Shop Floor Schedule
Identifies what resources you will be using, the exact order the items will be made in, and dependencies required in running this item. A shop floor manufacturing schedule is very detailed, often more detailed than users outside of production need to review. This is the document that the shift supervisor works from and directs the line supervisors and is often limited to 1-5 days out.
Both schedules are required to get the raw materials converted to finished goods in an orderly fashion. Additionally, most (if not all) companies perform these tasks. The questions to consider are:
- How efficient is your schedule?
- Could you produce more with the same resources?
- How much time are you spending to prepare the schedule?
To a very large degree, scheduling for a significant number of small to mid-sized formula manufacturers are done with Microsoft Excel or a similar tool. The data for the schedule is manually obtained from printed or electronic sales orders, inventory counts and best guesses of future orders based on history, or a best-guess. That manual process is the norm and not the exception.
Is that a bad thing? No. It depends on the complexity of your business and how efficiently you are trying to run. If you always make the same products, at the same quantity and in the same order, it is not a big issue. But, as lot sizes continue to shrink, breadth of products offered continues to widen, and lead times are reduced, then a non-integrated “back of an envelope” approach may not work anymore.
When you decide to introduce electronic tools for scheduling you need to be very careful in selecting the tool. The tool should read open sales orders, forecasts, and quantity on hand. For formula manufacturers, the scheduling tool should understand the formula and required resources (machines, people, and tools). This data is often more detailed than the ERP data and therefore more difficult to integrate. Then, discuss scheduling tools with your manufacturing application. If they do not have integrations to scheduling systems, you may choose a custom integration or consider a new production system.
If your production system does have integrations to one or more scheduling tools, then pick the one that best integrates to your ERP system and is not too complex for your personnel to use. Always remember, every scheduling implementation is unique to the company implementing it. There is no such thing as a plug and play implementation of scheduling. It will take time and effort by your company. Therefore, you should be certain that there is a high level of benefit for your company before adding this tool.
If the benefits are real and you have the rest of your production and ERP system under control, then adding electronic scheduling tools may be the right next step for you. But whatever you do, keep your manual system as the primary system until the new system has made the manual one obsolete. After all, the manual system has gotten you to this point. To learn more about how Vicinity Software can help your manufacturing company’s scheduling, contact us today.