Production Planning and Scheduling

Has your small business grown from a one-man band to a whole crew? Maybe you’re in charge of a bustling workshop and are looking to maximize efficiency on your shop floor. Here we discuss ways to identify methods of manufacturing process optimization.    

Nowadays, your small manufacturing business has options for finding manufacturing planning software. Good digital tools are not only for large enterprises or off-the-shelf spreadsheet packages. Production planning software that has been crafted specifically for small manufacturers and makers.   

So, read on to find out how to improve production scheduling in your small manufacturing business.  

What is Production Planning?  

Production planning and scheduling is making your manufacturing process flow with maximum efficiency.   

It is making sure your orders are fulfilled in the most efficient way, without interruptions, delay, or stress.  

Does that seem like a pipe dream?  

Maybe your workshop production flow just needs a few tweaks. Either way, proper planning and scheduling is absolutely necessary.   

It's a fact - production scheduling in manufacturing is especially challenging. It is not helped by the wide range of resources and processes to manage.  

Right now you might be wondering:  

"How is optimal production efficiency possible for small manufacturers?"  

It takes solid management with the right production planning and scheduling software. Do this well and watch as every part of your order fulfillment process work together, as they should.  

Without a solid plan to manage and schedule production, even the simplest business can get turned around.   

Complete production planning involves the accurate tracking of:   

  1. Team members;  

  2. Raw materials

  3. Workstations; 

  4. Processes; and 

  5. Supplies.  

Knowing measurements and figures is not enough. You need to understand how each part of your manufacturing process interact and work together optimally.   

The answer is simple: find the right tools.   

There are many production planning tools available on the market. The problem is that most of these tools are geared towards large manufacturing businesses. This makes them too complex for a small business’ needs. On the other side of the scale, there is off-the-shelf software like Excel. This is not robust enough for effective production planning. Excel leaves you few chances to analyze and optimize your processes.  

The Importance of Good Manufacturing Process Management    

Neglecting your order fulfillment process leads to problems arising sooner or later.   

Small inefficiencies may not be noticeable at first. But allow them to continue, then it will grow into a big one. This leads to bottlenecks in your production process. Bottlenecks are slow spots in your production line. They can cause significant issues in your production flow  

These issues affect your whole business:  

Customers will get frustrated with delayed orders.  

Crew members will get stressed and demoralized while struggling to keep up.   

It takes an effective production manager to diagnose and address causes of bottlenecks. This takes time and resources which could be spent elsewhere.  Afterwards, measures need to be in place that prevents something similar from occurring.   

Using production planning software helps you break this process down into manageable pieces. It saves operation managers time when finding ways to optimize the production flow. It allows you to stay on top of your floor-level management.     

Some may think that you can rush over management or sweep strategy under the rug.  

Make no mistake: 

Production scheduling in manufacturing is one of the hardest but most important things to get right.   

If any part of your production is off, then delays happen. Manufacturing process optimization means making sure dead stock and disappointed customers are non-existent.  

In general, good production planning involves:  

  1. Producing goods in the most logical and straightforward way possible;  

  2. Thinking ahead - anticipating situations like high demand, shortfall, and bottlenecks;   

  3. Identifying inefficient spots in the production chain; and  

  4. Finding the optimal way to completing orders on time. 

When Scheduling Production of Products What are the Key Factors to Consider?  

Production planning is vital for any manufacturing or craft businesses. Even basic products need a clear and defined flow to turn them from raw materials into quality goods.  

If this is not followed, your products are sure to drop in quality. Without a proper process, your standardized practices are sure to be forgotten. 

Crew Management  

Use your team well. Your people are a valuable asset to your business. They play a key part of manufacturing process optimization. Make it your business to know your people, including their strengths and weaknesses.   

This way, you can assign each team member to the most suitable tasks and machines. If someone is sick or goes on holiday, you have the additional capacity to make up for the temporary loss.   

Effective production planning allows you to get the most out of your people and machines. Every team member knows the tasks assigned to them, and what their expected output is.   

Keeping tabs on how this process lets you to compensate for shortfalls and keep up with high demand.   

Running at Capacity  

Is your workshop constantly running at 100% of its output? It only takes a minor bump to bring things to a grinding halt.   

A good rule of thumb is to always make sure your maximum output is a little higher than what you are doing now. If you do receive an unusually large order or two, you will be glad you prepared. The same goes for your team as they have enough resources to do their job on time.  

Raw Materials  

Frequent stalls in production planning mean paying team members and machines to stand-by waiting.   

Manufacturing process planning software can integrate MRP. This means you can have the required raw materials available at all times. You never have to push back production because of supply order delays. Priority deadlines do not have to be set back due to under supply. 

There's no need to be always stepping over excess raw materials on your shop floor.    

If done right, warehousing and transport costs won't skyrocket due to oversupply. As a bonus, every team member always has something to do as they work with the materials that you do have available.  

Workshop Logistics  

The logistical flow of each part in your manufacturing process also requires consideration.   

This may not seem so important, but you would be surprised.  

Many a production line has come grinding to a halt as one weak link has been placed on the wrong stage.  

Pushing machines and people to unsuitable locations can harm efficiency. Sometimes, what seems like common sense could be deleterious to your flow. It takes careful analysis to figure out how materials, resources, people, and supplies travel around your shop floor.  

It may be a more efficient layout or order exists for your business. Sometimes making a small change can make a world of difference.  

Problem Solving  

Trial-and-error problem solving costs your business money through each failed attempt. Over ordering or over producing is a band-aid solution, as this leads to extra costs or staff burnout. 

In order to get to the root of a problem, you need effective software to track your flow and find production scheduling issues.

Know Your Manufacturing Processes  

Understanding production scheduling principles allows you to methodically oversee your manufacturing. Track and manage everything effectively and everything should work like clockwork. Effective production scheduling makes it easier to do everything by the book – it is set out clearly for your whole team and is available 24/7. 

Production Planning and Scheduling Using Excel Causes More Inefficiencies    

A lack of production planning software for small enterprises has led many manufacturers to get by with spreadsheets. There are three main problems with this approach:   

  1. Spreadsheets are slow – it may be better than doing it with a pen and paper, but Excel is still too labor-intensive;   

  2. Spreadsheets are error-prone – they are vulnerable to mistakes which cause confusion and slow production; and   

  3. Spreadsheets are static – they do not update automatically. This can lead to delays as changes are not communicated.  

Many small manufacturers are stuck with Excel because they can’t see any better options. This is understandable. Most small makers do not need the gargantuan flow diagrams and Gantt charts seen in large enterprise software.   

Shop-bought software like Excel seems like a quick and easy option. But it is not powerful enough for effective production management.   

Fortunately, there is software designed for manufacturing process optimization.   

How to Do Production Planning and Scheduling the Right Way  

Katana is a Smart Workshop system that simplifies the production planning process.   

The interface is a user-friendly drag-and-drop system. If you want to re-prioritize an order, just drag it to your preferred spot in the list. Katana will automatically allocate the raw materials and other resources to this order.   

This high usability means you don’t have to spend an afternoon training yourself or your staff to use it.

The “Operations” screen lets you do production planning as it automatically assigns team members and workstations to each process your manufacturing orders require. There is no need to refer to complicated planning sheets, you just have to check it and go.

The “Manufacturing Schedule” screen lets you review all outstanding manufacturing tasks. If something comes up, or you want to change tack, simply reorganize your manufacturing queue with our intuitive drag-and-drop system.

Our visual interface makes planning and scheduling a walk in the park.

To see how it works in practice, check out our mini-guide below.

Advantages of Katana’s Production Planning and Scheduling Software  

  1. Keep up with demand, and prepare for change;  

  2. Prevent idle time in your workshop;  

  3. Significantly reduce scheduling errors;  

  4. Generate accurate, realistic deadlines;  

  5. Minimize inventory transport and storage costs;  

  6. Identify inefficiencies that could lead to production bottlenecks; and   

  7. Gets products out the door and to customers on time  

Operations in Katana Explained

Katana is helpful for your whole crew. You and your team members can log into the cloud-based system from anywhere. In the “Operations” screen you can see daily tasks, alongside processes, and machines.  

The example below shows a small business that makes leather goods. You can see two team members: John and Mary, and one machine: a leather sewing machine.

There are four orders on display: MO-2 to MO-5. MO stands for manufacturing order. More recent orders have lower numbers, so the first chronological order will be MO-1.

Katana automatically puts the first order to the top of the list, but of course you can customize this as much as you need.

The arrows on the right hand side of the screen show that nothing has been started yet.

From this screen, each team member can see the tasks that you have queued for them. When you prioritize orders in the “Manufacturing” screen, your team’s tasks get shifted to show this. Katana calculates the completion time based on other processes such as machining.   

With Katana, the system does not wait around to tell your staff to start a new order. If your first order is still being machined, Katana will allocate team members to tasks further down the list. Your team can use Katana to work out when they can shift back to the first item on the list.   

Katana assigns the most logical tasks for your team to do to create harmony on your shop floor.    

There is no idle time in a Smart Workshop. You can plan your whole process in the most efficient way possible.   

As your team completes their tasks, they can check it off the list. The screen below shows several completed tasks, clearly identified by the green check box.

When a team member starts a new task, they mark it in-progress by clicking the box to yellow.

If you want to know about an order, you can click on any part of it. This brings up a detailed breakdown of all important information linked to it, including raw materials and processes. This is kept off the main screen to keep everything clear and readable. You don’t need the same unreadable clutter seen in large enterprise software.  

You can define as many operations as your products need. It doesn’t matter how simple or complex your products are, Katana breaks the process down into manageable chunks for your team.

Manufacturing Scheduling in Katana

So you’ve worked out your operations and everything is going to plan and suddenly a new order comes in.

This is a new client, and they ask if you could get a large order to them by the end of next week. You know that this could a repeat customer if you get this right.

Katana’s “Manufacturing Scheduling” screen lets you organize this with ease. Here, you can find the new order, and simply click and drag it to the top of your manufacturing queue.

By default Katana is set to amend the deadlines of this new order, and all other outstanding orders automatically, as seen below. The deadline dates of every item in the queue will be changed to reflect this new order.

So there you have it! Katana lets small manufacturers plan and schedule their operations through its quick and easy visual interface.

You can see for yourself. You can try Katana for 14 days for free, with no commitment required.

Online Manufacturing Scheduling Software for Your Workshop

Katana’s production scheduling software for manufacturing lets you build a smart workshop with its key features:   

  1. Smart deadlines: re-prioritize and change orders on the fly by dragging and dropping;  

  2. Smart materials allocation: Katana logically redirects raw materials and resources depending on what is needed first;  

  3. Smart resources: all team members and resources are working together to do their part; and 

  4. Smart time management: see processing times for machining and packaging. Katana organizes your team so their efforts never go to waste.

 Start a free trial with Katana today and watch your efficiency rise through the roof.  

David UpshallComment