Scheduling in a high mix low volume environment is challenging in many ways. The high volatility of planning data due to ongoing and unforeseeable changes of the planning situation is not only a core characteristic of that business sector but also one main reason why scheduling is so critical.
To better clarify what I mean let's have a look at the „natural order of things“ concerning SMB production scheduling from the very beginning of a SMBs historical timeline.
Typical timeline of a high mix low volume manufacturer ...
- A small company is founded based on outstanding technical skills of the founder
- The company is growing quickly due the outstanding entrepreneurial spirit of the core team
- The growth is mastered successfully „from the technical side“: because the company is excellent in manufacturing and delivering customized high quality products, they can achieve their business goals. As the focus is on the core skill, administration is kept at a minimum level. Scheduling is happening „in the teams“ head, on a whiteboard or in a self made Excel sheet.
- As the growth continues the first orders cannot be delivered in time any more. There is no transparency why. The improvised scheduling methods are time consuming and not appropriate any more to master the still growing demand.
- The production gets into trouble: extra shifts are run on very short notice. Urgent requests cannot be confirmed or if confirmed make the chaos in the shopfloor even worse.
At this point the job shop owners realize that a proper production scheduling software solution is urgently needed to be able to further master the growth and meet the business targets. This awareness leads them to evaluate potential software options.
... resulting in the vicious circle
So far so good. One could think: well, the next and logical step is to select the „best“ option and go for it. But experience shows that this is not the case! The job shop owner rather gets lost in his process to make the next step. I call this effect – that I can observe pretty much on a daily basis – „the vicious circle of getting SMB production scheduling started“.
Let‘s go into more details of this dilemma. Therefore you have to understand the workload of the job shop's manager. This „poor guy“ is:
- The leading expert in all technical issues
- The most important salesman
- The head of finance and administration
The workload for just one of this areas easily exceeds a normal workday. So, it is pretty obvious that the manager – or even all people that are able to evaluate potential software options – are bottlenecks. Understandably the permanent operational issues have a higher priority than investing time into administrative evaluations. So, although there is the deep awareness that one must find a scheduling software solution the daily business prevents to make the next step. The result is that the situation of missing transparency remains and the chaos even gets bigger with every sales order. The limited time of the decision makers gets even more tied to the daily firefighting. In other words: the company is trapped in a „vicious circle“!
A proven way out of the dilemma
So, what’s the way out of this dilemma? Just to give relief: there is a way out! But I've to admit that this requires the full conviction and discipline of the decision makers. First of all you have to internalize that making the step from no to professional scheduling is
- a MUST for the further growth of your company and
- compellingly presupposes a relevant time of the decision makers
In a nutshell: you have to realize that making this step is an INVESTMENT. Investments are characterized by „sowing today for future harvest“. Operationally it means that you must budget – time and money - for this critical process.
If you have fully internalized these facts, then you jumped over the highest hurdle.
But there is another important conviction to get: within your budgeted process of evaluating software options, don't try to find the jack of all trades. There just won't be a software solution that meets all your requirements AND your budget.
Hence, look for best of the appropriate options. Every appropriate option will provide massive benefit in comparison to your current („No-“) option. I've seen companies that had extreme problems and needed urgent solutions in terms of scheduling but refused appropriate software options because they did not fully met their (disproportionately) long list of requirements. Inevitably, the image of a thirsty man in the desert comes to one's mind, that refuses the water and keeps on crawling for wine. So, be smart and keep your requirements reasonable, and accept appropriate fits to make the best possible out of your investment.
At this point generally you have two options which are in the end a make-or-buy-decision:
- You can evaluate appropriate options and then extensively trial it on your own or
- You can take advantage of service packages offered by the software providers to get dedicated help in the on-boarding process.
Everybody (and you as well) can benefit from a bit of "hand holding"
Like every make-or-buy-decision both options have its pros and cons. Self educated on-boarding is less expensive in terms of money but requires much more of own commitment and time to be successful.
As we learned that time of the decision makers is the gross bottleneck, experience has shown that the second option promises a much greater success rate for SMBs: when paying for an on-boarding service package the appointed users are "forced" into a fully structured process of learning professional production scheduling.
Which in turn means that the investment can be productively done and an appropriate tool can be implemented with a much lower probability of being interrupted by daily business. Once the on-boarding is completed the step out of the vicious circle is made and the phase of harvesting is ready to start.
Leave your vicious cycle now. Get a bit of "hand holding" and start with a free meeting with one of our scheduling specialists.