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    10 Machine shop scheduling best practices

    Martin Karlowitsch
    July 12, 2016
    Read the ultimate guide to job shop scheduling >>

    Unlike large process and discrete manufacturing, SMB job shop operations often rely on a labor-intensive scheduling process. However, because of dynamic arrival patterns, frequent order changes, and random sequencing on almost every small batch, finding effective ways to optimize your resources and reduce “makespan” times typically takes a back seat to the pressing urgency of simply arranging your daily production tasks.  

    Since many of your customers already utilize lean strategies to organize their own inventory and production runs, experiencing sporadic or unreliable order completion negatively effects your reputation as a vendor, and your revenues. From this blog you can learn 10 best practices with respect to machine shop scheduling that help you master these challenges.

    A Dynamic Production Environment Demands a Dynamic Scheduling Solution

    By recognizing the factors that will make your scheduling process easier, you can incorporate machine shop scheduling best practices that improve your ability to deliver quality parts and components on time, while simultaneously improving your floor efficiency metrics.

    The biggest challenge faced by SMB job shops is volatility. Therefore, machine shop scheduling best practices focus on developing an actionable strategy that addresses two core certainties: delivering accurate information regarding what needs done, and when; and the ability to easily view the impact and implications of specific job tasks.  

    These top 10 machine shop scheduling best practices center on developing an active planning process, unobstructed visualization, clear understanding, and ways to take immediate action. The machine job best practices also can be seen as best practices for job shops as you can see from our ultimate guide to visual job shop scheduling

    #1. Facilitate a seamless connection with current resource management systems.

    pixabay-gears-1236578_1920.jpgYour production planning/scheduling tool needs to work together with your other resource management systems to ensure maximum productivity. A smooth integration of production load information, along with labor and machine capabilities allows your scheduling tool to expand together with your total software landscape.

    --> Want to learn how other job shops benefit from production scheduling?  Download a free Ebook now. <--

    #2. High-level planning logic integration.

    Schedulers must arrange jobs according to finite capabilities, so your scheduling engine needs to automatically integrate the most important aspects of the job in relation to capacity. Moreover, necessary constraints like warm-up and wait times for machines must be accounted for, along with variables priorities, earliest due date, etc. A dedicated scheduling engine provides for these type of limits and dependencies automatically.  

    #3. Automatic prioritization for specific dispatch of rush orders and creating “what if” scenarios.

    You schedulers need actionable information concerning the inclusion of rush orders or changes to existing jobs. A detailed “what if” scenario provides quick, accurate implications so that the schedule can be adjusted for optimum productivity.

    #4. Offer clear, visual language.

    Your scheduling tool needs to provide, clear, visual language that is easy to understand, and that highlights any potential conflicts. Speaking colors (like red warnings) and recognizable symbols must be included to instantly show bottlenecks and convey the impact new order additions make to the current production plan.    

    #5. Deliver a multi-dimensional outlook.

    Your job shop deals with more variables than can be addressed by a one dimensional, visual system alone. A truly comprehensive view incorporates both your resource parameters (capacity) and your job details, with all their explicit and implicit dependencies.

    Instead of viewing data in simple rows, columns, and cells, you should have 3-dimensional access to:

    • Job view
    • Machine (resource) view
    • Calendar view—particularly in relation to work and non-work times.

    --> Want to learn how other job shops benefit from production scheduling?  Download a free Ebook now. <--

    #6. Embrace proactive support of the planning activities.

    Machine shop scheduling best practices must deliver proactive scheduling support, which means that alterations must trigger scheduling conflicts immediately. The visual system allows your schedulers to instantly see where any conflicts will occur with resources, so that they can better understand subtle implications to the schedule.  

    #7. A clear delineation of order alterations and the impact they have on your operating production.  

    Successors and predecessors must be automatically altered when an operation is changed, in order to allow for easy interpretation the fluctuations you face each day, making order impacts and dependencies obvious. This type of superior presentation provides actionable intelligence for your schedulers.

    #8. The power to manually alter the schedule.

    The ability to alter your schedule to meet changing demands provides you with the tools and intelligence to ensure that you’re optimizing your operations. Change your machine allocation, dates, and times using a drag and drop technique that continues to adjust the schedule as you work.

    #9. The ability to swiftly change capacity.

    Your schedulers also need to be able to quickly alter your capacities, such as inserting extra shifts and additional labor, or accounting for absent personnel.

    #10. An actionable method for developing scenarios and production strategies.

    You also need to be able to switch back and forth between production strategies (like ASAP and JIT) to ensure that delivery dates are met. This best practice offers flexibility that allows you to optimize your floor operations.   

    10 best practices for machine shop scheduling in four words: plan, see, understand, act 

    Machine shop scheduling best practices deliver the ability to alter your schedule to meet changing demands, and provide you with the tools and intelligence to improve your most important business metric: ensuring timely deliveries to your customers.  If wou want to summarize this in four words, you can state that a proper machine shop schedule should enable people to easily plan their production orders and resources, see the schedule at one glance, quickly understand dependencies and impacts, and have the capability to rapidly act in case of any issues.

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    Want to learn more best practices for scheduling your machine shop? Please feel free to download our complementary Ebook "A comprehensive introduction into machine shop scheduling":

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