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Production scheduling is an essential part of any manufacturing process. Whether you are producing small and simple elements or complex devices, with a clear and optimized production schedule, you can keep the manufacturing going smoothly while lowering your expenses.
For many manufacturers though, creating and optimizing their schedules is one of the most complicated tasks there is. And we might just know where exactly the problem lies – and how you can solve it. So read on to learn how you can optimize manufacturing scheduling in your own facility – and reap the benefits.
What is a production scheduling process?
A production schedule is a flexible document that lists:
- What items will be created in the manufacturing process
- Which workers, machines, and other resources are assigned to different manufacturing operations
- By what date the items should be ready for delivery.
- Which products should be crafted in the first order
- In what order or sequence the tasks should be done
How is it different from a production plan? During planning, manufacturers decide what items they should produce next, how many of them, and what resources they will need.
Manufacturing scheduling meanwhile focuses on who, where, and how will manufacture the items, taking into account the production capacity and available resources. To create a schedule, manufacturers break down the production activities into smaller tasks, allocate specific resources (e.g., machines, workers, raw materials), and then determine in what order the tasks should be performed.
In this way, scheduling helps manufacturers maximize efficiency, minimize idle time, and reduce their costs throughout the entire process.
Production planning and scheduling process in jewelry manufacturing – example
Let’s illustrate how planning and scheduling work in practice with an example of a small company creating jewelry. Let’s say the brand got 10 orders for their new necklaces model. First, the manufacturers need to check whether they have enough materials in the inventory for all orders – or do they need to purchase more supplies. They also have to look at the workers’ schedules to see who they can assign to the new order and who is still busy with other tasks.
Once they have the information they need, business owners can start assigning the designing, metalwork, stone-setting, polishing, and quality control tasks to their employees – together with a deadline by which they should finish the tasks. Once the schedule is ready and shared with all employees, production can start.
Manufacturers can then use the schedule to monitor whether the work goes as expected and will be finished on time.
Common Challenges in Manufacturing Scheduling
Unfortunately, creating manufacturing schedules often isn’t as easy and smooth like in our example above. To build an efficient schedule, manufacturers need plenty of data – from actual stock levels and their workers’ availability to the order in which the tasks should be completed.
Manufacturers especially often struggle with:
Matching resource availability with the production requirements is something most manufacturers have problems with, especially if the data they need is kept in several different spreadsheets. That sometimes leads them to overestimate their available resources – and take more orders than they can realistically fulfill.
Figuring out the proper order for manufacturing tasks isn’t an easy task either – especially if the manufacturing process is made out of dozens of tasks and some of the tasks must be finished first before others can be started.
Creating the schedule can then become tricky because the order and timing of each task need to be carefully estimated to ensure a smooth production flow. Setting the tasks in the wrong order though can lead the manufacturers to waste materials or damage the products – and that means financial losses for the factory.
The time needed for each task
To estimate by when the products will be ready to be shipped, business owners first need to know how much time the creation process will take. That can be very hard to calculate, though, if they don’t have precise data on how much each separate task will take. That’s why manufacturers often guesstimate while creating the schedules – leading to underestimating how much time they might need to handle all orders.
Real-time data as the key to optimizing manufacturing scheduling
Can you see now where the biggest problem in planning and scheduling the manufacturing process might lie? Yes, it’s in the data – or rather, lack of it. To optimize your manufacturing workflows and work schedules, you need plenty of up-to-date information about:
- Inventory stock levels
- Machine state and occupancy levels
- Which workers are busy and which are finishing all their tasks
- Task duration
- Expected product demand and orders, etc.
And technically, you can get the data from spreadsheets or just by going around the shop floor and asking your workers about it. But will it be reliable? Most often not, because the information you got might already be outdated by the time you’ll start to write the schedule. Not to mention, you probably don’t even have enough time in your hectic day to gather, verify, compare, and then put into the schedule the information you got.
Here’s where manufacturing solutions with real-time data can be a game-changer for your business.
How can real-time data be useful for manufacturers?
Let’s get back to the jewelry manufacturing example. As the production is ongoing, you got a call about an urgent order for 10 more necklaces. How can you determine whether you have enough material and resources to fulfill the order?
Looking at the current schedule is one option – but if it’s a paper/Excel one, then you first need to call the shop floor to verify how is the work going alone and who would be available to take the extra order. You would also need to contact someone responsible for managing the warehouse, to check do you have enough raw materials for the order.
What if you could have the entire information available to you straight inside one platform though? One look at the dashboard and you can see which machines are occupied, who is finishing their work, and how many gemstones and metals you have in stock. The data is also automatically updated, so you don’t need to call your workers to confirm how many resources they have used or who is currently working on what task.
After comparing the data inside the app, you can see that you have just enough raw materials to handle the order. And while your stone-setting and polishing team is still busy with their tasks, workers responsible for designing and metalwork will soon finish their tasks, so you can add the new order to their online schedules.
The staff will learn about the new order straight away, as the manufacturing app will send them a notification they have new tasks assigned to them – and they can check the task requirements just by clicking on the task name.
How can Prodio help you optimize your manufacturing schedule?
With the help of Prodio MES platform, you could implement real-time monitoring and use the data to optimize your manufacturing schedule as well. After the installation, Prodio will monitor your production progress and workers’ activity the entire time, so you will always have the latest information on your dashboard.
But what will be really useful both for you and your staff is the online production planning and scheduling feature. With a few clicks and you can create a manufacturing schedule right inside the app and then automatically share it across your entire shop floor (or several ones). You can add to the tasks any attachments your team might find handy as well – images, manuals, guidelines, or links to other resources.
Here’s what else you could gain by partnering with Prodio:
Optimal resource utilization
By having real-time data on their inventory and machine availability, manufacturers can allocate resources more efficiently and minimize idle time. Just think about it – no more problems with overbooking a machine or running out of raw materials in the middle of the production cycle.
You’ll have the entire data you might need for scheduling the tasks right inside the dashboard, so you’ll always know how many workers you can add to the schedule and which machines are currently idle.
Prodio can also help you keep the manufacturing cost lower by giving you complete visibility both across your shop floor and your inventory. By seeing how many raw materials you have and how many you will need to fulfill the orders, you can determine how many raw materials you should purchase from your supplies for optimal inventory stock levels.
An online production schedule meanwhile will show you how much exactly each manufacturing stage costs you, so you can see where you could cut your expenses.
Improved production efficiency
When the entire schedule is in one place, and all your workers can quickly check on what stage the work currently is now, that naturally boosts their efficiency. There’s no need to run around the shop floor or call you to ask what they should do now.
Instead, they can just open the Prodio app and see everything at a glance – from their scheduled tasks for today and production requirements to which machines are still occupied. Plus, the online schedule can also prevent a situation when workers start arguing about who should use a given machine first, which can often happen when workers only have vague goals to guide them.
Sudden machine malfunction? Urgent orders coming in? Supplies are delayed? When faced with such a situation, you need data to determine what should you do to reduce the risk that production will be disrupted and you won’t meet the deadlines. And the automatically updated data inside Prodio can help you make the right decisions.
Let’s say that one of your three welding machines has broken down and will be unavailable until the service team comes and repair it. By checking which orders have the highest priority, you then rearrange the online schedule for the other two machines so the priority orders would be finished first.
And since the changes will be visible immediately to your workers, you don’t have to call them or go to the shop floor to tell them about the new schedule either.
Enhanced coordination and collaboration
How often do you have to clear misunderstandings or miscommunication issues between your shop floor workers? Too often and sometimes, too late? That’s something with which Prodio can help you as well. As your manufacturers can check the production schedule and see what tasks other people are working on whenever they will need, there’s a much lower risk of misunderstandings happening.
Plus, whenever they notice an issue during production, they can quickly let you and the other workers know about it by adding it as a comment to their current task. That way, you can faster learn about any bottlenecks and solve those before they delay the orders..
By having detailed and updated in real-time production data, you can always know what’s happening in your factory at any moment. But you can also use the information about production performance or expenses to further optimize your schedules. For example, by analyzing how much time a given manufacturing task takes, you can better estimate by when the products will be ready for delivery – and ensure that your team can meet the deadlines.
Want to see Prodio in action? Call our sales team for a demo presentation or try out the 14-day free trial to see how much time (and nerves) the app can save you – and your workers as well.
By optimizing your production schedules, you can enhance your worker’s productivity, maximize efficiency while also reducing your costs. For this task though, you need data – but not the outdated and difficult-to-verify data you have inside your spreadsheets. Instead, you need reliable and automatically updated in-real-time information about your machine performance, inventory levels, and order statuses, so you can create and adapt your schedules as you need.
That’s something Prodio can give you – real-time insights to spot any production bottlenecks and help you respond quickly to any unforeseen changes or challenges. With the help of this app, you can master production schedule in no time – for the benefit of your business and workers.
Production Scheduling FAQ
What is a production schedule?
A production schedule is a document through which manufacturers plan their entire production process and assign workers and raw machines to specific manufacturing tasks. A production schedule is essential for manufacturing businesses because it ensures they use their resources effectively and meet shipping deadlines.
What are some common challenges faced in production scheduling?
One of the biggest problems for manufacturers is matching raw materials and other resources availability with production requirements, especially if they are using spreadsheets to manage their resources. Estimating deadlines to ensure timely deliveries, figuring out the right order for complex tasks, and keeping in touch with their shop floor workers is something many manufacturers struggle with as well.
What are the potential consequences of poor production scheduling?
Poor production scheduling often leads to chaos during manufacturing processes. For example, when business owners underestimate the time needed for production tasks, manufacturers can’t finish their tasks on time and the entire process might be delayed. Setting the wrong sequence for the tasks meanwhile can lead the manufacturers to accidentally damage the raw material or semi-finished products or force some manufacturers to stay idle until a given machine is free.
How can production scheduling software benefit my manufacturing business?
Production scheduling software can automate various tasks, such as progress monitoring or sharing updates between the shop floor workers. But the biggest benefit of such solutions is that they provide real-time visibility into production activities, enabling business owners to optimize their product schedules, improve their performance and meet customer demand.
How can analyzing data in production scheduling lead to improved efficiency?
Data analysis plays a vital role in boosting production efficiency. By analyzing data such as cycle times, setup times, and resource utilization, manufacturers can identify areas for improvement and inefficiencies in their production process and optimize those.