Job shops and contract manufacturers continuously feel the push-pull of juggling multiple jobs and the lead times and on-time delivery performance that goes with them. Conventional thinking suggests that a systematic approach to scheduling would alleviate the tensions between these competing priorities. While true, accounting for the inevitable daily changes that occur on any given job isn’t always as logical.
The truth is, change happens. Job shops that are fluid enough to accommodate it will consistently perform at a level that builds customer trust, loyalty and satisfaction—and greater sales.
Scheduling is pivotal in ensuring all other facets of the job shop run smoothly. Revamping your system can’t—and won’t—happen overnight, but you can implement a few best practices to improve the process incrementally:
1. Understand Barriers to Scheduling Success
When a job changes, so does scheduling. Being aware of typical scheduling challenges could reveal opportunities for process improvement. Some common change pain points include:
- Customers change their minds or set a new direction
- Vendors are unreliable
- Mix variations impact and move constraints
- Operators lack equipment training/skill sets to perform duties, or machines and tools break
- Data is not available or outdated
- Communication between departments is inconsistent
- End product quality is unacceptable
2. Identify and Address Bottlenecks
Taken in total, the operational complexities of a job shop seem unapproachable—and that can cover up inefficiencies and scheduling snafus. Separating operations into individual processes may present possible bottleneck-breakers like adjusting process family reorganization or streamlining routings.
3. Reduce Work in Process (WIP)
Dialing back WIP seems counterintuitive to scheduling effectiveness, especially since maximum WIP pushes work to all available areas. However, stacking work also means more jobs wait longer in queue, and lead times increase. Changes to one job impacts all others’ timing and overall scheduling. Decreasing WIP, even slightly, alleviates the strain and, almost paradoxically, increases production and scheduling effectiveness. Similarly, reduced WIP also shortens the time between production and final inspection which makes quality control more accurate.
4. Pay Attention to Inventory
Inventory is a balancing act for job shops. Too little and you run the risk of delays. Too much and you’re picking up the tab for raw materials to sit on shelves. Are you paying attention to the accuracy of the initial estimate and the timeliness of floor and equipment data so you can pinpoint the inventory needed to see a job through to successful completion? While changes will impact required inventory, having a snapshot of what’s happening on the floor will help you react as seamlessly as possible.
Using these best practices in conjunction with industry-leading manufacturing ERP software solutions maximizes lead time reductions in the near- and long-term. Contact Wipfli today to explore how technology will help set up your Job Shop or contact manufacturing operation for success.