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Things to consider with capacity planning and scheduling

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Quick lead time is one of the best unique selling points a manufacturing company can offer its customers. In the world we live in, projects and processes take days rather than weeks, and so the ability to forecast your manufacturing capacity has never been more important. Capacity planning and scheduling can be affected by so many factors, but the real question is, are these factors often taken into account? The terms capacity planning and scheduling are very closely linked and nearly always affect each other. Capacity planning refers to the workload you are able to process, whereas scheduling refers to the order jobs are processed in and therefore the speed in which they can be completed. A lot of software companies now sell their systems in modular format, so is this having a detrimental effect on their scheduling and capacity planning capabilities? Below is a list of key factors that should be considered when scheduling and planning your capacity.

- Labour hours vs. machine run time. This is a common one that is often misinterpreted. It is quite often assumed that if we have 38 hours worth of labour per employee a week, then we will have 38 hours worth of capacity with a machine. In some cases this would be true. An example would be a saw for instance as it would most likely be fully operational at the press of a button and would only require one operator. On the other hand, let’s take a furnace for example; So we have our employee turn up on a Monday morning to turn the furnace on. The furnace now takes 1 hour to heat up before any jobs can be processed; We are now already 1 hour down on our machine capacity vs. labour hours meaning 1 hours less production will take place through the furnace. The ability to take this into account is key as that employee could be best used on a different machine whilst the furnace heats up.

- Machine servicing. The build standard of machines is constantly on the rise as technology continues to advanced and building methods continue to improve. Unfortunately, most machines still require servicing or calibration every so often. Down time on machines is always going to have an effect on turnaround as you will have lost those machines manufacturing capabilities for a certain amount of time. On the more technical machines, an external engineer is often required, meaning that your machines capacity is affected. On the other hand, there are cases whereby servicing can be carried out by someone internally. This then has an effect on both capacity and scheduling as you now also have an internal job to fit into your already busy working schedule.

- Material availability. This one for me is key and usually overlooked. I often hear of purchasing and scheduling modules being supplied independently, and always question why and how? Jobs can only start if the bill of materials are present, so how can a system with no purchasing and stock information function accurately? Unfortunately events happen such as having the wrong material sent, or a delivery not turning up on time. In either case, any jobs that require those materials will be affected and are most likely not going to be started on time. Your schedule should immediately reflect this in order to give you the ability to react to the problem.

- Employee availability and constraints. It would be a near perfect scenario if every member of your workforce could operate every machine on your shop floor. The reality is that this case is very rare. Certain machines may require specific training and if those specially trained people are unavailable, certain jobs are going to be delayed.   

If you would like any more information or would like to discuss your requirements in further detail then please either;

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