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.

Technician holding a laptop, looking at production plans in a factory.
Last updated: 02.06.2023 8 mins read

Production scheduling is essential for growing manufacturing operations to take their production to the next level. If you’re looking to maximize efficiency on your shop floor, you need a way to optimize your production planning and scheduling.

Nowadays, your scaling manufacturing business has many options for finding production planning software explicitly crafted for manufacturers.

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to use manufacturing scheduling to allocate your resources efficiently and cost-effectively to meet customer orders. So, read on to learn how to improve production scheduling in your scaling manufacturing business.

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What’s the difference between planning and scheduling?

It’s only natural to assume that scheduling and planning are the same. They both involve planning to execute something. So, before continuing, let’s quickly break down the terminology.

What is production planning?

Production planning is the allocation of raw materials, resources, and processes to produce products for customers within certain deadlines.

What is production scheduling?

Production scheduling is the process of organizing and coordinating the production process to meet the demand of customers and optimize the use of resources.

Why do you need production planning and scheduling in your business?

The purpose of manufacturing planning and scheduling is to make your manufacturing process flow with maximum efficiency by balancing your production needs with your available resources cost-effectively. It ensures that your orders are fulfilled efficiently, without interruptions, delays, or stress. Does that seem like a pipe dream?

Maybe your production planning flow just needs a few tweaks.

Either way, proper manufacturing planning and scheduling are absolutely necessary.

It’s a fact — manufacturing 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 scaling manufacturers?”

The answer is simple:

Find the right tools

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. Even the most straightforward business can get turned around without a solid plan to manage and schedule production.

There are many manufacturing planning tools available on the market.

The problem is that most of these tools are geared toward large manufacturing businesses.

This makes them too complex for a business’ needs. On the other side of the scale, there is off-the-shelf software like Excel. This is not robust enough for effective manufacturing planning and leaves you few chances to analyze and optimize your processes.

Framed by Karl looking for materials based on production planning and scheduling.

Four stages of production planning and scheduling

The four stages of production scheduling are:

1. Production planning

Production planning is the process in manufacturing that ensures you have sufficient raw materials, labor, and resources in order to produce finished products to schedule.

It is a crucial step in production management and scheduling. Complete production planning involves the accurate tracking of:

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

2. Routing

Routing, or routing manufacturing, is the route or path to be followed during each manufacturing process step.

The manufacturing route defines the path from raw materials to the production of a finished product. If done correctly, you’ll know at what stage your item is at and which machine, tool, or work center it needs to travel to next.

3. Scheduling

Production scheduling is the management of these processes to ensure they are completed in a timely and economical fashion.

When a huge order comes in, you don’t have to estimate or guess, as you have “the knowledge” — the recipe for everything your business produces — at your disposal. This recipe is part of your bill of materials (BOM) and is a cornerstone of your master production schedule (MPS).

4. Execution

Execution is related to the process of undertaking your production planning and scheduling.

Having already established your manufacturing planning, routing, and scheduling, the next step is the execution stage, when you issue supporting orders or instructions to enable production.

Download a production schedule template
Download this free production schedule template for Excel to create an efficient and accurate production plan for your business.

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If the download doesn’t start, get your free production schedule template here.

The importance of scheduling and production planning processes

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, and then it will grow into a big one, leading 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 the causes of bottlenecks.

This takes time and resources, which could be spent elsewhere. Afterward, measures must be in place to prevent 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 the 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 nonexistent. 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
  4. Finding the optimal way to complete orders on time
Small manufacturer using production scheduling software for small business.

When scheduling production of products, what are the key factors to consider?

Production planning is vital for any manufacturing or craft business.

Even basic products need a clear and defined flow to turn them from raw materials into quality goods. If this flow or your production quality control checklist are not followed, your products are sure to drop in quality. Without a proper process, your standardized practices are sure to be forgotten.

So, when scheduling production of products, what are the key factors to consider?

Crew management

Use your team well.

Your people are a valuable asset to your business. They play a key part in 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 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 always to make sure your maximum output is a little higher than what you are now by calculating your capacity planning. 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.

Nowadays, 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 or stockouts.

Priority deadlines do not have to be set back due to undersupply.

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 of your manufacturing process also requires consideration.

This may not seem so important, but you would be surprised. Many production lines have 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 harmful to your flow.

It takes careful analysis to determine how materials, resources, people, and supplies travel around your shop floor.

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


Trial-and-error problem-solving costs your business money through each failed attempt.

Over-ordering or overproducing is a band-aid solution, as this leads to extra costs or staff burnout. You need effective production planning software to track your flow and find manufacturing scheduling issues to get to the root of a problem.

Know your manufacturing processes

Understanding production planning and scheduling allow you to oversee your manufacturing methodically to overcome production issues easily.

Track and manage everything effectively, and everything should work like clockwork. Effective manufacturing scheduling makes it easier to do everything by the book — it is set out clearly for your whole team and is available 24/7.

Using excel causes inefficiencies in production planning and scheduling

A lack of or expensive production planning software for enterprises has led many manufacturers to use spreadsheets to get by.

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 that cause confusion, production delays, and business-disrupting problems
  3. Spreadsheets are static — they do not update automatically. This can lead to delays as changes are not communicated

Many modern manufacturers are stuck with Excel because they can’t see any better options.

This is understandable. Most manufacturers 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 using production management effectively.

Katana manufacturing planning

Production planning and scheduling software don’t have to be complex. Stop spending hours updating spreadsheets or flipping through manuals with intuitive software that manages inventory, purchasing, and production. Sign up here.
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How to optimize production scheduling

Katana is a manufacturing planning and scheduling system that simplifies the whole process.

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

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

The “Operations” tab lets you do production planning as it automatically assigns team members and workstations to each process your manufacturing orders require.

operations tab in Katana

There is no need to refer to complicated planning sheets — you have to check them and go.

The “Make” 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. Katana’s visual interface makes planning and scheduling a walk in the park.

schedule tab in Katana

It allows you to:

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

Katana lets SME manufacturers plan and schedule their operations through its easy-to-understand but powerful visual interface.

You can see for yourself. You can try Katana for 14 days for free.

Katana manufacturing ERP showing open orders

Manufacturing planning software

Katana’s production scheduling software for manufacturing lets you build manufacturing processes with its key features, such as:

  • Smart deadlines — re-prioritize and change orders on the fly by dragging and dropping
  • Smart inventory management — for modern manufacturers
  • Smart materials allocation — Katana logically redirects raw materials and resources depending on what is needed first
  • Smart resources — all team members and resources are working together to do their part
  • Smart time management — see processing times for machining and packaging. Katana organizes your team, so their efforts never go to waste.
  • Smart integrations — you can connect your favorite services, from accounting software, like QuickBooks Online, to e-commerce platforms such as Shopify inventory integration, so that your entire business can be run from a single platform

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

author bio test

James Humphreys

Senior Content Manager

James Humphreys has a background in creative writing and has been writing about the manufacturing industry for 3+ years.

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