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    15 requirements that need to be part of your production scheduling process

    Ivanka Menken
    May 3, 2018

    This is a guest blog post provided by Ivanka Menken. She is a serial entrepreneur and the owner and Co-Founder of The Art of Service since 2000.  Ivanka specialises in creating organisations that manage their services in a sustainable and customer driven manner. Recently, Ivanka co-authored the book Production Process Scheduling Self Assessment. This blog post is an excerpt from this book and sheds a light on 15 requirements that need to be part of your production scheduling process.

    Nobody ever said that managing a manufacturing process is an easy task. When you just started out with your first prototype or pilot products you may have be able to simplify the process by only focusing on the inputs and outputs of the process but the moment your business grows you need to dive deeper into the individual milestones and sub-processes where you will find many dependencies and potential points of failure.

    There are just so many moving parts at every step in the process that it is easy to lose control throughout the entire process, resulting in missed deadlines, budgets and potentially loss of clients.

    There are different ways to plan and schedule manufacturing processes and you need to choose the method that suits your company and manufacturing process best. For small operations you can get away with a spreadsheet and daily task allocations on a whiteboard. For more complex processes, when your Excel-based scheduling does no longer scale, you need to employ a mathematical precision to the planning and production process scheduling. The important part is that you make an informed and educated decision and that you’re not afraid to make changes when you find out that the current way of working doesn’t deliver the required results.

    Irrespective of the software package you’ve purchased, or the method you employ to allocate plant and machinery resources as well as human resources (skills), plan production processes and material procurement processes, it is evident that you need to have a solid approach to Production Process Scheduling:

    Scheduling is the process of arranging, controlling and optimizing work and workloads in a production process or manufacturing process. ... Production scheduling aims to maximize the efficiency of the operation and reduce costs.

     Are you doing the right things?

    With so many choices it’s easy to get overwhelmed by not knowing where to get the most value from improvements in the Production Process Scheduling methodology. At the start of any improvement project it is recommended that you have a benchmark. A line in the sand to have a clear starting point to be able to measure the improvement results at a later stage.

    This benchmark can be done in the form of a Self Assessment. A Self Assessment gives you a current status overview, and will give you clarity and understanding where Production Process Scheduling improvements add value. This benchmark also visualizes where the weak spots / areas for improvement are, which is why it is a perfect exercise before you allocate resources to an improvement project. 

    When you look at self assessment questions however, it’s important that you answer them based on your own personal opinion and experience. This becomes even more important when you fill out the Self Assessment with your team. Each individual in the team answers the questions differently - but keep in mind that the ultimate answer to each of these questions is:

    ‘In my belief, the answer to this question is clearly defined’.

    You can go even further and ask for documented evidence, rather than just opinions. This will move the questionnaire more into an auditing realm as you require evidence to substantiate the answers.

    Some of the most important management requirements for Production Process Scheduling are listed below. For each of these questions, think about your current role and try to answer them truthfully.

    Are these requirements identified, assessed, implemented and documented? Or is there room for improvement of Production Process Scheduling processes in the organization?

    The management requirements are listed across 5 different phases, which coincide with the general life cycle of a business process. These phases loosely align with Deming’s Quality cycle: Plan - Do - Check - Act (PDCA for short).

    • Plan what you are going to do
    • Do what you planned for
    • Check / study and analyze the results of what you did in the previous step
    • Act accordingly - improve the activities, measurements and expected outcomes.

    To help you to understand the style of questions you can ask during a Self Assessment, we listed the 15 that you must be able to answer for your Production Process Scheduling and placed them in the appropriate phases:

    Phase 1: Recognize the value of Production Process Scheduling for the overall business

    • Can Management personnel recognize the monetary benefit of Production Process Scheduling?
    • How are the Production Process Scheduling objectives aligned to the group’s overall stakeholder strategy?
    • Is there a critical path to deliver Production Process Scheduling results?
    • Is there a completed SIPOC representation describing the Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs and Customers?

    These questions are all about the value using Production Process Scheduling brings to the business. Will it make us more money? Perhaps through improved efficiency so we can create more products in the same timeframe? Or perhaps it saves us money because we identified duplicate activities somewhere in the production process?

    Understanding the objectives of the business and the stakeholders gives focus and boundaries to the Production process which makes scheduling of tasks, resources and machinery easier.

    Phase 2: Define what Production Process Scheduling means within the context of our business 

    • Are the inputs identified, which, if not received (for example due to sensor failure), can lead to a hazardous state or can prevent recovery?
    • Do we know the required performance in terms of speed, accuracy and precision?
    • How will variation in the actual durations of each activity be dealt with to ensure that the expected Production Process Scheduling results are met?

    Once we’ve identified that Production Process Scheduling is a valuable tool for our business, we need to find out how this would work in a practical scenario. [comment: you can see practical production scheduling scenarios in the recorded advanced-level just plan it webinars] What are the performance requirements for the entire production process and do we know how to manage variations in the actual process steps?

    The questions in this phase take the idea of Production process scheduling from a theoretical exercise to a practical implementation.

    Phase 3: Measure & Analyze How Production Process Scheduling is currently performed

    • Are we taking our company in the direction of “better” and revenue, or “cheaper” and cost?
    • Is it possible to estimate the impact of unanticipated complexity such as wrong or failed assumptions, feedback etc. on proposed reforms?
    • How do we use Production Process Scheduling data and information to support organizational decision making and innovation?

    You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so this step is important for the ongoing management of Production Process Scheduling. This is where we identify what  drives our business and what metrics we need to measure and analyze.

    Phase 4: Improve the Production Process Scheduling processes

    We now have a Production Process Scheduling methodology that we implemented and are monitoring ongoingly to identify how we are tracking towards our goals. Once you reach this phase in the process everything becomes focused on improvements. Nobody wants to keep the status quo. Staying the same means you’re not in tune with changing customer’s demands which could jeopardise your future business results.

    This phase is also heavily geared towards legal and regulatory compliance. Since rules keep changing it’s important that we stay up to date with what is happening and how our production processes are compliant.

    • At what point will vulnerability assessments be performed once Production Process Scheduling is put into production (e.g. ongoing risk management after implementation)?
    • Who is involved with documenting compliance?

    Phase 5: Control & Sustain the Production Process Scheduling Objectives

    The final phase for Production Process scheduling is all about controlling what we can control and sustaining the business results. This means that we are now looking at knowledge management to safeguard the performance levels of the production process irrespective of the human resources used in the scheduling processes. 

    The requirements in this phase also look into our ability to innovate and formalise the ongoing improvements of the deliverables as well as the production process scheduling processes used to achieve the results. 

    • Is knowledge gained on process shared and institutionalized?
    • What quality tools were useful in the control phase?
    • How do we foster innovation?

    Once you have solid answers to all of these questions you are well on the way to having an effective Production Process Scheduling approach in your business that will sustain you into the future.

    You will have an understanding of the business objectives and benefits that can be achieved by adopting this methodology and you will have the appropriate metrics and measurements to make informed and educated decisions going forward.

    The next step could be a formal audit of your process, which means you need to come up with proof and evidence to support your answers.

    Article by Ivanka Menken, CEO The Art of Service, author of The Production Process Scheduling Standard Requirements Self Assessment Guide.

    About the author

    Ivanka MenkenIvanka Menken is a serial entrepreneur and the owner and Co-Founder of The Art of Service since 2000.  Ivanka specialises in creating organisations that manage their services in a sustainable and customer driven manner. With 20+ years of management consultancy experience and an education degree, Ivanka has been instrumental in many organisational change management projects in The Netherlands, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia for both government agencies and private corporations.

    Ivanka beliefs that education and training is at the foundation of every successful enterprise. Ivanka has been a guest lecturer for a number of Queensland universities on the subject of IT Service Management and Organisational Change Management and proudly featured as one of “Australia’s 50 Influential Women Entrepreneurs” in 2016.

    While running The Art of Service, Ivanka authored a number of publications on IT Service Management, Cloud Computing and Customer Service. She also completed her Entrepreneurial Masters Program at MIT and served on the board as the second ever female President of the local Entrepreneur’s Organization chapter.

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