If your business is a service oriented business and your work load is high, you are constantly facing the balancing act of managing the schedule for output. If your business is a product oriented business and the demands for different SKU’s of the products you produce is not a constant but the volume demand overall is high, you are also constantly facing the balancing act of managing the schedule for output. Busy schedules means business is good and booming but fulfilling the demands of your customers’ timeline requires sound business practices. Busy schedules also mean high risk for failure if not managed properly. If you are good at scheduling your work load and taking advantage of basic dynamic scheduling techniques, you will have no problems keeping up with the increased demand as well as making adjustments when the infamous “Murphy’s Law” gets in the way. If you do not apply good scheduling practices, you might simply be moments away from running in total chaos. The key…employ some basic scheduling theories, practices, and reporting.
To achieve a good schedule, it is very important to fully understand the work required when scoping out a specific job or production run. If you naturally build in extra time to offset potential unforeseen circumstances, you might be grossly underestimating the total available time and thus losing business opportunities. Secondly, it is imperative to fully understand the availability of the equipment and manpower to the organization which is the foundation for the ability to schedule. Regarding the equipment, typically organizations will assume if they run flat out, it is the best way to get the most output. After all, shutting down for routine maintenance takes away from the ability to perform. Actually, this assumption of running flat out being the most efficient method, is a false assumption. It may pay off in the beginning, but after a short amount of time of not maintaining the equipment, emergency firefighting of that equipment will not only eat up profits, but also blow the schedule. Keeping the equipment at top operating efficiency, even if it means performing routine maintenance, is more productive. Along with the equipment, staying on top of the staff is required. If you do not have close communication with staff normally, you certainly want to have it during busy times. It will lead to preemptive adjustments before something fails with them or their schedule.
Managing the compliance to schedule on a routine basis, daily and weekly, is vital to being successful, but even more so during peak or high productivity volumes. Collaborative meetings on a routine basis with key production staff is key to staying up with current progress. Daily requirements must be monitored to ensure and track progress ahead of simply waiting for a shortfall. Adjustments can be made more precisely and accurately when known as they happen vs. waiting until the production run or job time slot is missed completely. It should be someone’s primary role to monitor the schedule daily and understand the impact if things begin to run behind. During busy times, if multiple people are monitoring their respective schedule’s, it is imperative they talk at least momentarily each day as well. The effort must be collaborative and not independent of each other. This is especially true when there exists shared resources. Each week, there should also be a report on progress and the previous weeks’ productivity/service level. It isn’t necessarily to get a number that makes you feel good, but more importantly to understand why the number is what it is and what impacted it. Understanding what drives the weekly compliance to schedule number, positive or negative, is what leads to continuous improvement to the next weeks schedule.
During those times when your business is running at peak capacity regardless if that means your staff is maxed out or the production lines are maxed out, understanding and managing the schedule is one of the most important activities leading to success. Establishing a weekly schedule expectation is imperative to actually monitoring how things are progressing. Having key staff members track and communicate daily progress is a necessary step to making adjustments on the fly as things happen that were not formally accounted for. Weekly reporting of schedule compliance is also a key to determining what went wrong from last week as well as making sound knowledgeable business decisions on future schedules. If you are not looking at any formal scheduling practices or reporting, your risk for negative schedule impacts is greatly increased. It also is not a good way to manage the business overall, regardless if this is a busy time within the organization. It isn’t as important to maintain a high compliance to schedule as it is to fully understand what has impacted it both negatively and positively and applying those factors to future schedules.
O.M.E.M., LLC – Helping Businesses Improve