Production planning and scheduling for manufacturing (+free template)
Production planning and scheduling increases your manufacturing efficiency. Adjust your production schedule based on inventory, resource and orders. Learn how with Katana.
Here we explain the differences between forward scheduling and backward scheduling. Which is the best method for manufacturers looking to organize their workflow?
You’re back in school, and Mrs. Smith has dropped an assignment on your desk.
If you complete your tasks as soon as possible, you have the security of knowing your work is done long before the due date. This is the basic principle of forward scheduling.
But what happens if you’re a day into your assignment and Mrs. Smith gives you another assignment that needs to be ready by tomorrow? Well, this is when the student who chose to work closer to the deadline shines.
Leaving the first assignment until the last minute allows you to make sure you’re organized, meaning you can be more flexible when prioritizing your workload.
This is the basic principle of backward scheduling.
Let’s go through these scheduling tactics so you can get a better understanding and see which is the best for you.
When scheduling, you should efficiently utilize your resources to complete operations within the specified time frame. Scheduling aims to make your manufacturing process flow at maximum efficiency.
According to some studies, poor scheduling leads to employees multitasking, which drops productivity by 40%.
If done correctly, it will allow you to fulfill your orders most effectively, helping you avoid interruptions, delays, and stress. As businesses adopt the principles of lean manufacturing and just-in-time inventory, they also put more emphasis on scheduling. The two main concepts are forward scheduling and backward scheduling.
But what are these two scheduling practices?
Forward scheduling is when businesses manufacture their items as soon as possible before the due date. This is achieved by scheduling the relevant resources and materials as soon as they’re available.
Let’s illustrate this with an example.
Suppose a customer orders an item with a delivery date that is six days away, and the lead time for the item is three days. Production begins as soon as the manufacturing order is created, and the item should be ready three days before it is due (assuming there are no snags along the way).
As you can see, some orders can be fulfilled long before they must be dispatched, meaning you have to hold the products in inventory until you can send them.
There are two notable advantages to using forward production:
Let’s explore these in more detail.
Because you’re working on completing tasks immediately, you can maximize the use of your human resources and design a workflow that gives you the highest output without straining your workforce.
Similar to having more flexibility with your workforce, you can also redistribute your resources during downtime to ensure time is fully utilized on the work floor. This also allows you to respond to a high influx of orders by shifting your resources to meet these new orders.
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Disadvantages of forward scheduling are:
Since you’re working ahead of the deadline, your material will be used up sooner. So, if demand does increase, you will be playing catch up as you restock the material shortages.
The same applies to your manufacturing lead time. As you have scheduled productions to your capacity, you won’t have much room to increase your workflow speed when new/more orders come in.
You can already see a snowballing effect of issues with this workflow. All your resources will have been committed to jobs, meaning no extra resources will be available to focus on a particular job.
This might not make sense, but because you started early doesn’t necessarily result in an early finish. New orders can create a bottleneck as you wait for materials or resources to free up.
Forward scheduling doesn’t account for some items having a longer lead time than others, meaning you might begin work on a job with a short lead time, delaying production on a bigger job that should be prioritized.
Now, let’s look at the alternative scheduling strategy.
Backward scheduling is when businesses make their items at the last available period before the due date.
The order starts with a planned receipt date or due date, usually defined upon the customer’s order. Then you work backward, allocating resources and materials to the order, and determine the latest start time.
To keep it simple, let’s use the same example as before.
A customer orders an item with a delivery date that is six days away, and the lead time is three days. From the due date, a manufacturer will figure out when they can start manufacturing. So, if the 6th day is the due date and the lead time is three days, the production will begin on the 3rd day.
Using back scheduling can help you identify bottlenecks, monitor resource availability, and have an easier time completing tasks in priority.
The advantages for manufacturers who want to utilize backward scheduling are:
Material and resources will be utilized when needed. Also, they should have no products in inventory (though having some safety stock doesn’t hurt), as production will finish on the due date. This means there will be a lower carrying cost.
If production speeds need to be increased or decreased, this will be possible as you’ll have resources and material available since it hasn’t been committed to a job yet.
Using backward scheduling has the following disadvantages:
A last-minute rush means last-minute problems. Delaying everything means if a problem occurs during production or even when the production is finished, you have no time to address this issue.
The nature of reverse scheduling means it can be difficult to fulfill orders if an unusual or unexpected influx of orders occurs.
The biggest and most noticeable issue with backward scheduling is that it delays starting work orders. Orders which need to be rushed to meet a deadline get priority, even if it means pushing back the production of other items.
Switching between reverse scheduling and forward production is commonplace, depending on certain situations.
For example, if you’re receiving a huge and unexpected workload. You may need to switch to backward scheduling to sort orders by the longest lead time to meet due dates.
Or, maybe you get different demand levels at different times, and slack means money is being lost. Forward scheduling means you can utilize free resources.
There are other variables you need to consider that will affect whichever scheduling process you decide to use. These factors include:
So, how are you supposed to conclude which is the best for you?
So, you want to get down to brass tacks, is forward scheduling or backward scheduling the best for your business?
Well, it mostly boils down to what it is you manufacture.
Let’s imagine you make bespoke products. You might receive an order for an item that needs minimal customization and has a relatively short turnaround.
However, you commit resources to make the product, and then you receive an order for a different item that needs much more work.
You’ve now backed yourself into a corner.
You’ve already started work on one project, and now you don’t have the resources to start this other project, which might require you to order more material and delay production.
To understand if you should use forward scheduling or backward scheduling, you need to ask and answer these two questions for yourself:
Ultimately, if this already sounds like too much introspective thinking for you, there is a shortcut to putting together schedules.
If you cannot decide between forward scheduling and backward scheduling, you’ll be happy to know that you can also opt for flexible scheduling. Flexible scheduling allows you to switch it up depending on the exact order you’re working on.
You can find this flexibility in Katana, a cloud manufacturing software aimed at scaling manufacturers looking to stabilize the unpredictable nature of an expanding business.
You won’t need to decide the best time to start production, as Katana automatically calculates production deadlines and allocated material to projects for you. Katana helps you maintain a smooth workflow and take production scheduling to the next level.
By integrating Katana into your business, you get to benefit from features such as:
Real-time inventory management with autonomous updates to monitor stock levels.
An intuitive drag-and-drop system lets you reprioritize important orders and track operations progress.
With Katana’s integrations, you can access your other tools, like Shopify and QuickBooks Online, from one platform.
Katana considers the available human resources and automatically calculates the job’s production deadlines based on your weekly throughput times. It also takes into account material availability.
The materials are allocated to the oldest order first, but if you have a new order that needs to be finished as soon as possible, simply drag the order to the top of the list. Katana will reallocate all the required resources automatically.
If you wish to manually set different deadline dates, you can switch off the automatic estimation calculations under Configure deadlines. Once you’ve done that, you can go into the manufacturing order and change the dates of each order manually.
To test out Katana, sign up for the 14-day free trial and discover how to implement your perfect schedule.