A proper job shop scheduling software has numerous advantages which improve the overall efficiency of a job shop. Still, some high-mix low-volume (HMLV) manufacturers might not be fully convinced that their own job shop actually belongs to those needing a more advanced job shop scheduling tool. One might find its own production too small to justify an investment into a software. Hence, despite the possibility of using a proper scheduling software, many small make-to-order manufacturers still rely on their old scheduling tools: paper, whiteboards or most commonly Excel. This posts first reflects on those simple production scheduling tools and then shares 3 signs that your shop needs proper job shop scheduling.
The thing about Excel and other simple job shop scheduling tools
Without a doubt, Excel is a powerful tool. There are countless functions and uses, it comes within the Microsoft Office package (almost) everybody has installed anyways, and it is easy to use once you get into it.
It comes with no surprise that any manufacturer, any student or any analyst starts off by using Excel when it comes to handling any kind of data; same is true for job shop manufacturers. And frankly speaking, this approach might be totally sufficient at some point.
However, once the business grows at a faster pace, the tool simply will not be able to adequately handle the increasing complexity. It goes without speaking that same applies to other simple scheduling tools such as the old-school planning approach of using a whiteboard.
Here are three obvious signs that your shop needs a proper job shop scheduling software.
#1 Your schedule consumes more time than it generates benefits
One thing should be undeniable: your job shop scheduling tool’s purpose is to help you better schedule and understand your own shop by monitoring all production processes. This implies that eventually efficiency, utilization levels and accuracy should be increased through your scheduling tool.
But, as the business grows and with it the underlying complexity, simple scheduling tools might not fulfill the above-mentioned criteria. With a growing company, incoming orders rise, more and different machines are added, various resources have to be handled and production lines tend to be more complex.
All of this happening in an ever-changing and volatile environment as usual for job shops.
As a result, oftentimes a manufacturer is busy updating the (manually maintained) schedule constantly. Every aspect has to be adjusted according to one single change in the production which makes the whole process extremely time-consuming as more variables are involved.
At the point where you are more involved with updating your schedule than actually benefiting from it, you should think about a change.
#2 Your job shop scheduling tool does not give you all the information at one glance
With a growing business, the complexity of the decision-making process increases as well due to more and more factors being involved. In order to make an informed decision that will increase the value of a company, a job shop manufacturer should have certain information available at one glace:
- The utilization level of every resource and machine
- The current orders that are in danger of running late
- The impact of any changes to your job shop set-up
If your job shop scheduling tool does not provide you with that information instantly, you should opt for an advanced tool.
#3 Your scheduling tool is too static to deal with short-term confrontations
Imagine the following scenario. Your production is going as planned and you currently do not have any major delays.
Suddenly, you have to handle an extra incoming order from one of your most important customers. The required job is urgent and affects most of your current orders you scheduled for the upcoming weeks.
In order to see the actual benefits of taking or rejecting the order, you would have to manually change numerous factors of your schedule.
As time is limited, you do not have the time and resources to do so right now. Therefore, you decide not to put in the effort and time to conduct a proper cost-benefit analysis for your decision but rely on your gut feeling.
In case you accept the order, you do not have time to add the order to your production schedule. Instead, you start working on the order as soon as possible. As a result, your schedule does not match the reality anymore while you are working on that extra order which further makes the whole planning tool useless.
In the worst case, you lose control over your orders, cannot properly assess the outcomes of your actions and risk the delay of many other orders.
Similar problems arise when suddenly a machine breaks down or some workers are sick.
If these (extreme) scenarios are not that alien to you, you should consider a change in your production scheduling approach.
There is only one major take-away this time: Protect yourself from losing control over your job shop production once your business grows by using a proper job shop scheduling tool.