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5 Common Production Planning & Scheduling Mistakes

Visual Business Solutions

By: Scott Jessup

Manufacturing planning and control is all about the acquisition and allocation of resources required to manufacture a product that satisfies customer demand within a certain time frame. In order for that to happen, a variety of materials and labor need to be seamlessly coordinated to yield optimal results. Consequently, any problem with production planning and scheduling – keys to effectively controlling manufacturing -- is a process optimization problem.

While there are any number of issues that can affect production planning and scheduling, there are five common ones that are prevalent among a wide range of manufacturers. They include:

Not properly establishing capacity. Capacity is at the very heart of the manufacturing operation. As a mathematical point in ERP equations, if capacity is not accurately established at the beginning of the manufacturing process, all calculations are going to be wrong. To make it even more challenging, capacity is dynamic – machines go down, workers get sick, overtime comes into play. All these things affect capacity and need to be taken into account to accurately establish it.

Utilizing incorrect routings. Routings are essentially operation times. If routings are over- or under-estimated and run times are wrong, the incorrect routings will adversely affect output.

Planning production from a desk. Today’s sophisticated ERP software and powerful computer systems can lull production planners into a false sense of highly-efficient production planning and scheduling security. Software flexibility and customization make it easy for planners to sit at a desk and think, “if I look at this screen long enough and make a few adjustments, our production schedule is going to work perfectly.” Nothing could be further from the truth. 

To avoid production planning mistakes that can’t be seen on a computer screen, it’s important for production planners and schedulers to get out on the shop floor and interact with production personnel. An active presence on the shop floor enables planners to personally see what’s happening and double-check ERP calculations against the physical reality of actual manufacturing operations.

Attempting to do tomorrow’s planning with yesterday’s tools. Many manufacturers, especially small-to-medium-businesses (SMBs), attempt to do production planning and scheduling with legacy systems or data manipulation tools poorly equipped for the task. For example, Excel is good for exporting reports and providing some data analytics, but it makes a poor production planning engine.

Any modern, integrated ERP system such as VISUAL is able to process data, lay out a production schedule, and then provide a set of reports that will indicate any problems that need to be addressed. Good ERP systems that are fed the proper data will do all the math and produce an appropriate production schedule. It’s important for production planners to let the ERP system manipulate the data and provide scheduling answers so they can use their time to focus on solving problems.

Ignoring maintenance for production. Complex discrete manufacturing has a lot of moving parts, including high-performance machines that need considerable maintenance and fine-tuning. If machines are out of calibration and not performing at full potential, production slows as workers struggle with inefficient or unreliable machinery, scrap and rework increase, and overall product quality suffers, all of which can adversely affect company growth and reputation.

In manufacturing there has always been conflict between production and maintenance and it’s easy to see why. Production traditionally wants to keep machines running while maintenance wants to take machines off-line for service so they can continue to operate at capacity.

Quality and efficiency are the cornerstone of profitable manufacturing and preventive maintenance is critical for enabling machines to operate at peak efficiency. If manufacturers want to improve performance and optimize productivity, it’s crucial to focus on preventive maintenance and find a balance between that and production.