User roles, hierarchies and responsibilities in job shop scheduling

    June 27, 2023
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    The success of production scheduling is not determined by the person setting up the schedule alone. Hierarchical structures with assigned, defined tasks and good communication are key to efficient scheduling. However, hierarchies and fixed task assignments are less common in practice for smaller companies, such as job shops or other high-mix low-volume manufacturers. On the other hand, if they want to grow, and cannot avoid scheduling software to do so, the issue of defining "user roles" becomes important to them. Here are the 5 user roles that are not only elementary to scheduling but also have a huge impact on the long-term growth of a job shop.

    Many cooks spoil the broth, says a proverb, but that is not necessarily true. If you look around at good gastronomy, many chefs work hand in hand and conjure up a wonderful meal to the point.

    It's a bit like that in job shops or any high-mix low-volume (HMLV) manufacturing company. There, things are mostly family-like, coordination often still works on demand and there are only a few hierarchical levels. Everyone knows what they have to do and takes responsibility for it without it being described and defined in writing.

    However, as the number of jobs increases, loose coordination quickly reaches its limits and efficiency begins to decline. Today, more and more HMLV manufacturers are using an Automatic Finite Scheduling System (AFS) to better control their production. An AFS System generates a detailed work list for the shop floor based on the given finite capacities.

    Automatic Finite Scheduling (AFS) is the key to success for job shops

    The importance of user roles definition

    For these software solutions, it is essential to define user roles with different rights that not only assign tasks but also regulate access to the calculated schedule and the software. Without this regulation, settings and data could be changed in an uncontrolled manner and the system could get completely out of control. Here the above-mentioned saying would then apply: too many users spoil the schedule.

    Since, as also mentioned above, a hierarchical structure or user role system is as yet unusual in HMLV production companies, I will summarize the main roles and their tasks here:

    • Scheduler
    • Shop floor operator
    • Manager
    • Viewer (Sales and Externals)
    • IT staff

    The Scheduler

    The quality of the schedule depends strongly on the person who takes the role of the scheduler. He/she has access to almost all the functions of the AFS system. He/she is responsible for and operates all updates of the schedule such as updating the availabilities of finite capacities and adjusting job priorities (“internal updates”). He/she is also responsible for and operates all interfaces the AFS is integrated into (“external updates”).

    It is advisable having a hierarchical structure of schedulers. There should be one person assigned to be the chief and there should be a minimum of one additional scheduler. It's important to have a second person who can seamlessly take over when the chief is on vacation or sick. Do not underestimate the importance of this position in the context of settled AFS usage.

    The Shop Floor Operators

    Second, there are the shop floor operators, working on the shop floor or a selection of it. The shop floor owns the information about the execution progress. This does not only include the information about which operation is started and finished or on hold. It also includes information if an operation takes longer than estimated and how much longer. Strictly speaking, these people also know whether and how much wastage was produced. In any case, the shop floor operators must record the relevant information and make it available for scheduling. This can happen via a function integrated into the AFS or via a connected Secure File Transfer.

    It is quite relevant to establish a certain hierarchy among the shop floor operators. In this context, it makes sense to appoint one person as the chief operator. This is the first point of contact for the schedulers in all questions about the situation on the shop floor. In addition, it can also make sense that the chief operator checks the entire data set of the shop floor's progress at the end of a shift before the data set is passed to the schedulers.

    The role of the operator gets obsolete if an automatic process to track the shop floor progress is implemented, such as barcode scanning. As this is very rarely the case with small manufacturers, the operator's contribution to the scheduling cycle is very important in HMLV.

    The Manager

    Incomprehensibly, the role of a manager is often ignored.  On the contrary, a manager should have a natural interest in the output of the scheduling process. At least one manager must monitor the performance of the process. Therefore, this role must check whether all other involved roles fulfill their duties. And with checking the process quality, they are also able to check the quality of the outcome.

    The Viewer

    Viewers have only the right to view the schedule. Hence, they are only addressees and not contributors to the scheduling process. But giving internal and external people the according rights can give a benefit. 

    Viewing rights for a salesperson enables him to monitor the course of his customer's job during execution and keep external communication with him up to date. 

    Viewing rights for good customers can have a good impact on the customer relationship. When your scheduling process has settled down, and your customer can view the jobs related to the respective sales order in the AFS he will appreciate this beforehand information that allows him to adjust his schedule as well. 

    The IT staff

    Last but not least, IT also has crucial responsibility. Although IT has no role in the daily scheduling routine, experience has shown that interfaces are maintenance-intensive. It should be clear to everyone involved whom to contact in terms of issues. On the other hand, the responsible person should of course be familiar with the network of applications. If the person responsible for IT is internal, it can also make sense to give them admin rights to manage the AFS.

    user roles, hierarchies and responsibilities in job shop scheduling

    Production scheduling tools need constant adjustments

    The use of production scheduling software in an HMLV production environment, like an AFS, is no self-runner. It requires continuous maintenance of all persons involved in the scheduling. The user-role definition plays a very important role in this: Only correct and timely data feedback from the shop floor leads to a sufficiently realistic schedule (operator). Bottlenecks must be identified at an early stage and prevented by rescheduling (planner). Weak points in the production process must be uncovered by analyzing historical data (manager). Interfaces with other software products must be kept up to date (IT).

    Paying attention to these defined user roles and executing them conscientiously leads to efficient and organized production, even in an HMLV production environment, which is notoriously agile and difficult to plan for.

    Automatic Finite Scheduling


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