Mapping for Efficiency: The Importance of Job Shop Scheduling
Nick Ostdick - July 06, 2017
It’s summer. You’re planning a big road trip. You’ve consulted maps, charted a route, marked off places to refuel your car, grab a quick bite to eat, maybe use the restroom. You’ve maybe even planned a few alternate routes in case of road construction or other disruptions, and you’ve even simulated your route using GPS, Google Maps, or some other smart mapping platform. And in doing so, you’ve worked ahead of time to ensure the most pleasureable road trip experience and to troubleshoot any potential issues with getting from point A to point B.
You might be asking: What does planning a road trip have to do with manufacturing or global supply chain management? The answer is simple: The ability to successfully plan an undisrupted road trip is not entirely dissimilar to creating table and efficient planned production programs to meet customer demand in a timely manner. Especially in short and mid-term planning, manufacturing companies have to account for the ability to receive orders, allocate resources and production sites, ensure inventory, and meet delivery timetables, all based on a number of rules and restraints in the production cycle.
This, much like our road trip example, is where a job shop scheduling solution proves to be a crucial value proposition for planners and managers to plan for the parameters of optimized production programs ahead of time to combat bottlenecks and disruptions and ensure lean, efficient production cycles for on-time delivery. Because job shop scheduling provides a holistic view of program planning, manufacturers can deploy strategic, transparent, and agile production schemes that provide enhanced transparency across each touch point of the value chain.
Defining job shop scheduling
Before we discuss the concrete benefits of job shop scheduling, let’s first examine how such software provides planners and managers with such heightened levels of end-to-end visibility across all points of the production cycle.
The goal with both short and mid-term planning is the optimization of orders as they move through an often complex production environment. Rules, restraints, part availabilities, and production facility capacities can be altered at any point during planned production programs and often take place with very little notice or advanced warning. Planning of this sort, even in today’s digital manufacturing landscape, is still often completed in Excel or manually entered in comparable programs, which provides very little in the way of centralized data sharing and often results in functional silos across a company’s various touch points. Because of the rigidity of such planning platforms, inquires from customers about potential delivery dates or production capacities are addressed based solely on past production programs and not on current situations or capacities - in short, planners and managers lack the real-time ability to examine current production capabilities or create predictive models to create accurate delivery timetables.
Much like plotting out a road trip, job shop scheduling provides planners with a concrete path for efficient, accurate planning via: the creation of orders; the mapping of the associated machine, employee, material, and tool-structure; and the optimization of workflows for each job.
The value of job shop scheduling
Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of job shop scheduling for planners and managers is the ability to execute control and precision over planned production programs - and the visibility and insight provided by a job shop scheduling solution into a manufacturing company’s overall supply status fosters a more responsive relationship between production, delivery, and customer relations. In order to achieve this balance, let’s examine four concrete benefits of job shop scheduling and how manufacturing companies can leverage these benefits for greater efficiency and productivity.
More stable planning and production processes. Job shop scheduling creates an optimized, buildable and reproducible production program under consideration of resources, personnel, material and tool availability. In turn, this allows planners and managers enhanced insight into potential bottlenecks and disruptions with enough time and maneuverability within the supply stream to combat said disruptions by adjusting planned production programs and timetables.
What-if and simulation capabilities. The ease of data maintenance and sharing within a job shop scheduling solution allows manufacturing companies to compare different job allocation scenarios based on actual orders or customer inquiries to make informed, productivity-based decisions on how jobs should be allocated and the resources necessary to complete those jobs.
Integration with existing solutions. Production planning doesn’t operate in a vacuum - nor does job shop scheduling. The flexibility of such a solution allows for easy, convenient integration with existing planning solutions to create synergy throughout the overall supply stream - in conjunction with the latest in intelligent planning such as Industry 4.0 and The Internet of Things. This synergy is a key driver in promoting a fully optimized production network capable of reacting and responding to small and large-scale disruptions.
Real-time production feedback. The capability to provide alerts, error messages, and other notifications in modifications to rules and restraints in production programs is critical to on-time delivery and maintaining manufacturing schedules. Job shop scheduling provides such notifications to planners and managers in real-time to foster more informed production decisions for increased value and productivity.
Just like how you wouldn’t set out on a long journey without some kind of map or plan to make the trip as easy and successful as possible, planners and managers should not set out planned production programs in the short and mid-term without the tools to successfully facilitate a transparent, agile, and visible production scheme. Job shop scheduling allows planners to achieve these production cycle standards to leverage a more efficient and cost-effective supply network.