Whether you are planning a meal for some friends or a holiday trip, having a schedule in place is essential. Same is true for a job shop production. Essentially, the goal is to match supply and demand. On the one side, supply includes the capacities, resources, labor and the available material in the job shop. On the other side, the demand encompasses the actual job orders including the according resources and capacities needed to complete the job. Job shop scheduling aims to combine these two components, internal supply and demand, in the most optimal way possible. Therefore, having a proper schedule in place is a crucial value proposition for job shop managers.
The Wrong Approach to Job Shop Scheduling
Many job shop manufacturers rely on outdated scheduling methods. Aiming to create some kind of transparency, they use paper or a whiteboard or try to create an Excel solution (btw: here are more thoughts on which scheduling approach is best for which type of manufacturer). Clearly, these tools lack the real-time ability to understand the current production capabilities and proactively use these insights in further planning. It is undeniable that they do no justice to the volatile and chaotic job shop environment and therefore, have a significant negative impact on the overall production. Those manufacturers find themselves in a “firefighting” state, constantly trying to tackle the most urgent problem while risking losing control of the overall production.
When being confronted with a decision, such as when to define the delivery date, solely relying on experience and past production instead of proactively using what-if scenarios can be detrimental. Frankly speaking: A manufacturer risks being driven by its own production when it really should be the other way around.
The Benefits of Proper Job Shop Scheduling
At some point, a job shop manufacturer cannot refuse to introduce a proper, software-based job shop schedule when trying to keep up with other job shops in the industry or even trying to gain a competitive advantage.
Here are 6 reasons why a job shop benefits from such a job shop scheduling system:
#1 Visibility and Transparency
At some point, a job shop manufacturer cannot refuse to introduce a proper, software-based job shop schedule. Gaining transparency over a production is the goal of any scheduling tool. However, what characterizes a good job shop schedule is the fact that it offers visibility not only over the current order but also over labor and machine capacities, due dates, waiting times, production dependencies etc. Optimally, a holistic view is created. The schedule should provide all the precise information needed to understand any component that influences the current and future manufacturing processes. Further, it might also be helpful to have a system in place which more people have access to, so the general plan is visible to more than one person in the work plant.
#2 Control and Precision over Planning
After gaining visibility over one’s production and precisely understanding all ongoing processes, one is able to take over the full control. With a proper schedule, a manufacturer can anticipate and direct new orders as well as change current orders. One can move from being reactive to being proactive in shaping its production.
#3 Combat Bottlenecks and Disruption
Tracking every step of the production and having all the information available in one place opens up the opportunity to identify disruptions and bottlenecks well ahead of time. It might even be possible to remove a factor before it becomes a threat. As disruptions and constraining factors are potentially eliminated, quality and efficiency increase while errors decrease.
#4 Identify new Opportunities
The same way bottlenecks can be identified through a high level of visibility, new opportunities can pop up. It might become apparent that a certain capacity is always idle and can be used elsewhere or a production line can be altered which would reduce its throughput time. Identifying these opportunities can bring along crucial improvements.
#5 Real-time Feedback
A proper job shop schedule provides the manufacturer with error notifications and alerts. These alerts are sent when on-time-delivery is in danger or when the production is off schedule. Again, this provides important help in avoiding errors and increasing productivity.
#6 What-if Scenarios
The simplicity of adding or changing jobs to some extent, allows managers to assess the impact of small changes on other processes, resources, material, personnel and other capacities. Hence, manufacturers can find quick solutions to problems like:
- A customer demands a higher order volume.
- Ordered Material is not delivered on time.
- A customer requests an earlier delivery date.
- A machine needs to be repaired.
Using what-if scenarios, different solutions to such problems can be evaluated and decided upon.
- A whiteboard, paper or excel will not do! Those temporary tools prevent a job shop from exploiting its full potential.
- A software-based job shop schedule brings a high level of transparency which will automatically result in more control.
- Having a precise overview of one’s production, a manufacturer gains the ability to improve parts of the production as well as identify new opportunities to exploit.
- Ultimately, a proper schedule enables a job shop manager to proactively responds to its environment instead of reacting passively to threatening circumstances.
Want to read more about job shop scheduling? Download our cheat sheet. It's free :-)