Production planning process to unleash your maximum efficiency

Planning and production control, if done correctly, has the potential to maximize your resources, reduce costs, alleviate risks, and keep your customers happy. Here are some tips and tricks to show you that the production planning process doesn’t have to be difficult.

Last updated: 25.07.2023 12 min read
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Regardless of whether you identify as a control freak or not, keeping up with your business growth is always a challenge. Using the proper tools and systems for manufacturing can be the tipping point on whether you control your business or freak out about it.

If you need help finalizing your production plan or don’t even know where to start — we’re here to clear the air once and for all, so you can get your business running to its full potential.

What is production planning and control? 

Production planning and control involves managing manufacturing-related activities, such as scheduling, inventory control, resource allocation, and quality control. It also encompasses human and material resources, ensuring products are manufactured according to customer expectations and within agreed specifications and deadlines. It is a crucial aspect of operations management that helps companies remain efficient and profitable.

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Why do you need a production planning process?

Production planning and control offers a number of benefits to manufacturers. While every business is different and has its own specific needs and requirements, there are some universal advantages that apply to everyone following a proper production plan.

Reduce costs of manufacturing by eliminating inefficiencies

Every step of manufacturing has a price tag on it. Whether it’s something elementary like electric bills and workers’ salaries or more specific expenses, like machine maintenance, tools, and raw materials — without proper planning, you’re likely to throw away money that you could use more wisely.

By tracking time and materials per production, you can calculate the labor and exact quantities of items used in production that go into manufacturing, cutting down on waste and thereby optimizing your costs. No more buying extra “just in case” and getting things done “as soon as possible.”
As Wyatt Earp said:

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything”

Mitigate risks associated with a given product

There are several risks that you’ll have to predict in order to avoid them, but here are two of the most common ones.

1. Perishables 

When working with perishables, there’s always the element of health and safety regulations. Perishable substances not only need to be stored and handled differently to avoid any health risks but can also be more challenging to manage as inventory. Adopting some handy features ensures your ingredients don’t go sour, and neither does your business.  

With expiry date tracking, you can prioritize production with supplies that have their expiry date coming up or boost manufacturing of products that require ingredients that perish sooner.  

Batch tracking enables end-to-end traceability for food products throughout the whole product lifecycle. You’ll be able to monitor everything from raw ingredients to shipped-out goods. This feature will prove especially useful if you ever need to issue a recall.   

2. Demand 

As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to be familiar with consumer habits. Not only will it give you good insights into your buyers’ expectations, but it will also help you predict spikes and drops in demand. Keeping up with customer trends creates a more reliable image of your brand, and your clients will learn to trust you to always be available and deliver on time.  

Demand may also differ by season. For example, if you produce footwear, you’ll see a difference in summer and winter trends, which you should be prepared for. Sandals and boots may both be popular items, but based on the weather, they’ll each have a peak in demand and probably not at the same time.  

Holidays and events also tend to affect trends, with Christmas raising demand for red-white-green items, while Valentine’s Day often brings back hearts and Halloween everything horror-themed. As a long-time manufacturer, it’s wise to rely on past years’ data, so don’t underestimate the power of inventory analysis and throwbacks.  

Predicting a higher demand also means being prepared for a spike in purchases requiring all hands on deck to help out. This includes your shop-level workers, suppliers, and also shipping partners. It’s not enough that you know about consumer trends. Your entire team should be aware, as you’re all working towards the same goal. 

Production planning is important for reducing costs in your business. 

Ensure that manufacturing goes according to schedule

Anyone working with deadlines knows that even though the little ticking sound in your head may be annoying, it’s also necessary to keep production running smoothly.

As soon as one step falls behind, everything else starts slowing down too. In the long run, that could affect your processes and, eventually, your customers. When you’ve put together a strict production schedule that also takes into consideration possible deviations, it’s easier to stick to it, and in case any issues arise, it will act as an emergency plan.

Imagine a situation where Black Friday is coming up, your business has invested in great marketing campaigns, and customers are excited to purchase your new products. All that’s missing are the items!

If you run a Make-to-Stock (MTS) business model, the tragedy may not be too drastic as you’ll probably have a decent supply already in stock. However, trouble may ensue if you work with the Make-to-Order (MTO) model and your delivery time ends up longer than what customers expect.

Pro tip: You can learn more about MTO and MTS by checking out this article: Make-to-Order (MTO) vs Make-to-Stock (MTS).

Establish quality standards and stick to them

Put yourself in the shoes of a buyer for a second — you’re looking for dining room chairs and have ended up with two possible choices, both in the same price range. One is comfortable, has excellent lumbar support, looks good, and is easy to clean. The other is okay at most, a bit too firm for your liking, and the material is itchy and stains easily. It’s not bad, but also not the best option.  

Which one would you choose?  

Unless you’re a collector of average furniture, you will probably settle upon the first chair. Why? Because it’s better in every way. This is the typical thought process of your buyers — they select the better option. Your job is to ensure your products stand out from the competition for their exceptional quality and user-friendliness.  

Quality standards aren’t that complex to come up with, especially if you know what it is that your clients are looking for. The tricky part is keeping up with their expectations and constantly delivering. The best way to keep your standards as high as the buyers’ expectations, is to put together a production quality control checklist.

Maximize resources for better and faster delivery

You’ve surely heard the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder.” What it means is to make the most with the least amount of effort. You can use this mindset in all areas of production.

When manufacturing, combine similar tasks to save time on the graduation period from one process to another. For example, when producing doors — there’s the first part where the frame is built and the second part where it’s painted or decorated.

Instead of making each individual door one by one, put together the structures in a batch and then paint them all at once. It may not seem like much to transition from woodwork to the final finish, but it will benefit the complete process in the long run.

Less stress, more success

It’s impossible to be everywhere all at once. While micromanaging and being well-informed on every step of the process may give you a feeling of security and control, it will eventually become draining and might even be counterproductive. Stress and pressure build up, and you burn out — not the most appealing idea.

Planning and production control can speed up and polish your manufacturing process while still giving you an overview of what’s happening. You will get to keep your sense of control without having to physically watch over everyone’s shoulder, monitor all the machines, and stress out about deadlines.

A woman performs a stocktake using a smart device to adjust inventory in QuickBooks Online.

Using specialized tools for the process of production planning improves the quality of your workflows and allows the plans to be fulfilled to their maximum potential.

Software solutions are more accurate and cost-effective in comparison to manual methods. They allow your business to work optimally for maximum efficiency while not spending too many hours on paperwork.

By giving access to real-time data analytics and predictive patterns, businesses can gain insights into their current state of operations and proactively manage future trends leading to better profitability.

How to make a production plan? 

There are a number of steps on how to plan production while ensuring that your items are manufactured efficiently and cost-effectively: 

  1. Establish goals and objectives 
  2. Create a plan 
  3. Monitor progress 
  4. Adjust as necessary 
  5. Final assessment

1. Establish goals and objectives 

Determine what resources are available, how production will be managed, and what the desired outcome should be. Setting clear and measurable goals ensures that everyone involved in the production process is aligned with the overall vision, and it provides a roadmap for efficient decision-making and better resource allocation.

2. Create a plan 

Develop a detailed strategy for accomplishing each step of production and what you will need to achieve the envisioned outcomes. The plan should outline specific tasks, timelines, and responsibilities for each team member involved. With a robust plan in place, you can identify potential challenges, come up with possible solutions, and keep an eye on the endgoal throughout the entire production process.

3. Monitor progress

Measure performance regularly to ensure that goals and objectives are met as planned and have the expected results. Implement a system for tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the efficiency of the production process. By continually monitoring progress, you can identify any deviations early on and make swift adjustments, enabling you to stay on track and maintain the desired standards. Regular feedback and data-driven insights also offer valuable opportunities for continuous improvement.

4. Adjust as necessary 

If needed, make changes to the production process to ensure that products meet quality standards and customer expectations. Unforeseen challenges may arise during production, so flexibility is key. Addressing any issues, optimizing workflows, and aligning production with changing customer demands, will ultimately help you exceed customer satisfaction and maintain a competitive edge. Embracing a continuously improving mindset and being open to feedback will set your team up for success in the long run. 

5. Final assessment 

Once the product is finished, review the results of the production process to identify any areas for improvement or adjustment in the future. A comprehensive analysis allows you to evaluate the overall efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and quality of the process. By learning from both successes and challenges, you can fine-tune your production planning strategies, optimize resource allocation, and enhance processes for future projects. 

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5 types of production planning

Make-to-order and make-to-stock are workflows that will impact how you develop your production plan. Your plan will also be affected by your manufacturing processes. Here are the five main methods of production you can introduce into your business:

1. Job method

The job method, or job shop manufacturing, is often used when manufacturing a single product where custom material processing requirements are needed. For bespoke manufacturing or any production where customization is offered means your production plan will change from product to product. SMB manufacturers usually implement this method, but larger companies can utilize it too.

2. Batch production method

The batch production method, or batch manufacturing, produces finished goods in bulk instead of individually or through continuous production. This production process allows manufacturers or managers to closely watch each stage of production to make quick corrections and monitor efficiency. This method is great for food production and manufacturers who produce a large scale of items.

3. Flow method 

The flow method, or discrete manufacturing, is a demand-based manufacturing plan where materials ‘flow’ from one machine to the next until they become finished goods with little human interaction. This approach to manufacturing requires a standardized workflow and increased quality control to ensure the continuously produced items aren’t defective. This method is great for manufacturers who need to produce a uniform set of items one by one.

4. Process method 

Process method, or repetitive manufacturing, is the stereotypical idea people have of manufacturing – your assembly lines. This production plan will create finished goods by passing through different machines and processes. Great for manufacturers who need to make a lot of similar products.

5. Mass production method

The mass production method, or continuous manufacturing, is more or less the same approach as the flow method, but on an even larger scale. Manufacturers use this method if uniformity is critical, and they use a standardized process to guarantee that products all look the same. Using the mass production method allows manufacturers to create many items in a short amount of time.

CT LAB improves daily operations efficiency by 30% with Katana.

"Katana integrates everything, making for effective company-wide resource planning and control." - Danielle Louw, Production Manager at CT LAB
Vectro 3 and VectoNODE devices on a table

How does planning and production control work in Katana? 

Production planning software takes the heavy lifting off your back and turns tedious paperwork into an easily automated task.

Katana can help your business with advanced production planning and control. These are just some of the features Katana offers:  

  1. Real-time inventory 
  2. Reorder points 
  3. Delivery tracking 
  4. Production schedule 
  5. Task assignment 
  6. Integrations with other helpful tools 

1. Real-time inventory 

Track your products and monitor stock movement for your products and raw materials in real time. 

To manage your inventory in Katana, open the Stock screen and see the current balance of selected items in the In Stock column. 

Inventory report in Katana

Based on your actions on the Stock page, Katana makes relevant changes to the inventory count. No more spreadsheets and paperwork — automatic updates will be your new best friend.

2. Reorder points

Create indications to keep stable stock levels and prepare for spikes in demand and supply shortage.
Navigate to the Stock page and see the Reorder point tab.

Reorder point tab in Katana

In the MTO business model, the reorder point can be set to zero as production is started after the customer’s request. However, you can set reorder points for your ingredients to make sure you’re ready to begin manufacturing when an order comes in.  

In the MTS business model, it’s easier to manage stock levels by setting reorder points to avoid running out of supplies and products. 

3. Delivery tracking

Pack and ship your items individually or in bulk. Stock levels will be automatically renewed based on the status of the order.  

You can also prioritize orders that you know will have longer delivery times or that need to be delivered faster. It’s a great way to improve your order fulfillment cycle time, and your customers will appreciate the short wait.  

If you go to the Sell screen, Sales order tab, and open any sales order, you’ll be able to change the shipping status.  

Sales order shipping status in Katana

The status can also be changed on the main Sell page under the Sales order tab if you edit it directly in the last column.  

Shipping status on the Sales order page in Katana

4. Production schedule 

Scheduling allows you to prioritize the manufacturing of your most popular products and manage time more efficiently.

You can access scheduling on the Make page in the Schedule tab.

schedule tab in Katana

5. Task assignment 

Besides schedules, Katana also offers the ability to create tasks and assign them to your shop-level workers (operators). By completing tasks, operators can automatically change the manufacturing status and streamline production without time-consuming paperwork. 

Operators can view their assigned tasks in the Shop Floor App, which can be accessed with all smart devices. 

Tasks are accessible on the Make page under the Tasks tab. In this view, you can create tasks, change their status and assign them to your operators.

Tasks tab in Katana

6. Integrations with other helpful tools 

Katana has native integrations that can be extremely useful tools for your process of production planning. You can plan out every step of the product lifecycle using integrations such as:  

And there you have it — the secrets to a seamless production plan. Now that you know how to plan production, it’s time to put all this knowledge into action and remember the wise (and slightly paraphrased) words of Benjamin Franklin:

“By failing to plan, you’re planning to fail.”

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This is Laura Timberg.

Laura Timberg

Copywriter

Laura is a Copywriter who loves to find the fun and beauty in every topic she writes about.

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