Wipfli logo
Manufacturing Tomorrow

Manufacturing Tomorrow


How Should Manufacturers Improve Job Order Scheduling?

Aug 09, 2016
By: Mark Stevens

A great deal of cost reductions and productivity gains can be made by aligning scheduling, supply chain and machine usage.

Trend analysis is critical when it comes to improving scheduling routes and standards. Look for variance when you conduct an analysis. High variance is an indication that something is awry, and areas where you see it should be the first to be targeted for improvement in your manufacturing process.

When you analyze routes, it’s important to identify where bottlenecks occur and look for alternatives. For instance, perhaps you can outsource a process or route the work through a different department. It may take longer this way, but the ultimate goal is to keep the flow going. Those kinds of strategies and contingencies need to be in place to ensure that you’re maximizing flow and scheduling to the optimum throughput.

The ultimate measure of throughput output is per labor hour, and scheduling resources to optimize labor hours is critical. It might be beneficial to purchase or configure machines so they can be used for multiple purposes, enabling you to keep the flow going and maximize time.

The best machine is not always the one with all the features and high-speed capacity. You might be better off buying two smaller machines with less functionality that you could put on two different lines versus having one big machine that everything must go through. Choke points like that lead to bottlenecks and other constraints.

Access to accurate data is critical to improving scheduling routes and standards. You must be able to see what’s happening in reality to understand and refine it. Accurate data is the backbone to any manufacturing ERP system or other technology that uses an algorithm to assist with scheduling.

You also need a superior data collection system that is both timely and accurate. The more you can use technology to record what happens and gather input from the operator in a work center, the more data you’ll have to leverage when making decisions. If you make the system easy and convenient, it will be accurate and timely.

Technology like Kinect, for example, allows users to input information using voice or gesture recognition. That’s going to be much more effective than asking someone to walk away from their workstation to log the time it took to complete a job.

A manufacturing ERP system is a powerful tool for leveraging data to improve scheduling. With accurate information, you can use ERP to run different scenarios that a human mind typically can’t process. It presents the opportunity to generate better promise dates for customers, both internally and externally. It also allows you to plan materials and capacity together so that they align, and enables connecting planned orders with a source of demand.

The goal is to get closer to just-in-time (JIT) and eliminate all the starts and stops in an organization to maximize flow. One of the most powerful impacts a manufacturing ERP system can have on scheduling is reducing batching based on orders. When there’s a sequence of orders coming in, the system is smart enough to identify economies of scale in running certain batches together.

It’s also able to determine how to set up the line to be more efficient. Perhaps you have an order for products with black and white ink. The system will advise you to produce the white products first and then change over to black, which makes the changeover simpler.

Accurate data is absolutely critical when it comes to optimizing scheduling, supply chain and machine usage. If you’re basing decisions on employee-reported data, make sure that you have a system that’s easy and convenient to use. It’s the best way to ensure you’re able to make the right choices for your organization.


Mark Stevens
View Profile