3 Essential Production Planning Improvements
By: Scott Jessup
Production planning is at the core of any manufacturing process. The purpose of production planning, of course, is to organize material and human resources to efficiently manage production costs, time, materials, and personnel.
Efficient, effective production planning involves the intricate choreography of all these elements so that they come together in a cohesive, timely fashion to speed the production process along to a successful, profitable conclusion. For any manufacturing operation to reach its full potential, effective production planning most be at its core.
So how do you improve the production planning process? It starts with three fundamental improvements:
- Provide production planning education
Unfortunately, many manufacturing operations, especially small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs), relegate production planning to machine operators or process managers who have come along with the business as it has grown. While these individuals may be outstanding machine operators, they typically don’t have a broad knowledge of planning and production principles. To equip them to become skilled, qualified schedulers and planners requires education so they can successfully use tools such as Infor’s VISUAL, which is one of the preferred ERP solutions for SMBs.
- Utilize a “closed loop” manufacturing process
By this we mean a process that has a defined beginning, middle, and an end that yields measurable data and results. An open-ended process does not provide output data to support analytics, making it difficult to analyze process efficiency. Without a closed loop, manufacturers can be lulled into simply inputting ERP data to run a process with no thought to improving it. A closed loop process provides measurable results that enable manufacturers to gain answers to a number of critical questions such as:
- Are your run times accurate?
- What is your efficiency?
- What is your accuracy of capacity?
- How much overtime is consumed?
- Did you get the result you were expecting?
Having a closed loop system and an appropriate set of metrics enables you to understand why you’re getting the results that you’re getting.
Most production planners who are having trouble with production scheduling simply know that their scheduling doesn’t work – and they have no idea why. The metrics and analytics that can be used with a closed loop system enable you to determine where critical breakdowns in the production operation occur.
- Implement root cause analysis
Root cause analysis can help you correct deficiencies throughout the production process. By discovering and addressing the root cause of production problems you can permanently fix them instead of simply treating the symptoms. For example, if production runs are typically late, instead of approving more overtime, analyze why production takes longer and fix the root problem.
All production planning improvements come down to two basic tools: metrics and analytics. Without identifying and defining what needs to be measured and gathering that data, there’s nothing to analyze for ways to improve. Well-defined, reliable metrics and analytics are the key to improving production planning, streamlining operations, and supporting continuous improvement.