Author: Lori Adams (CloudMFG, LLC)

Many manufacturing companies struggle with traditional production scheduling methods. Common production scheduling methods range from Excel spreadsheets and white boards to Finite Scheduling programs embedded in ERP or Advanced Planning and Scheduling tools (APS). These traditional manufacturing scheduling methods tend to be “high” maintenance and are far too complex to manage on a day-to-day basis. Quite simply, any of these manufacturing scheduling methods tend to be very static and cannot keep up with the variability in the supply and demand chain.

There is a better way.

Please, do not give up. Protected Flow Manufacturing™ (PFM) is giving manufacturers a reason to be excited with their new approach to the production scheduling dilemma. In fact, it is not scheduling at all. PFM is a Production Execution and Planning methodology that looks at a given moment in time for each resource and dynamically determines what order is at the greatest jeopardy to being late.

PFM works on three Basic Principles: 1) Release orders at the optimum point in time based on queuing theory – Little’s Law.

How does this work? Think of an amusement park. The more people who go to the park, the longer the lines and the more time it takes to get through those lines. A manufacturing floor is the same – the more orders released to the floor, the more orders that wait to get built, thus clogging up the work. This increases the probability of bad things happening like cherry picking the build list, material disappearing, and the like.

2) Buffer around the times that are based on the touch time or real time it takes to build the order.

This buffer then allows for Murphy to visit and still delivery can occur on-time.

3) PFM calculates an “urgency” or “threat” level for all orders on the floor.

This factor looks at the touch time remaining to be completed versus the time remaining from delivery. Orders are always prioritized on the highest remaining threat level at that resource. The real power of this production scheduling methodology is its simplicity. It is an easy methodology that does not require a scheduler to run in batch mode or an Excel spreadsheet to be updated. It is dynamic and real time. It is always calculating the threat level that is the highest at any resource so that the newest information is up-to-the-minute.

And, PFM self-expedites orders. If a customer called in and pulls the order in 2 days, the new delivery date would just need to be updated in the system. Once the delivery date is updated, the order dynamically moves to the top of the dispatch list in terms of threat level for the resource. There is nothing that needs to be done – the operator will read the dispatch list for the next job to build. It’s much better than running a “hot” sheet out to the floor to begin building the order.

Frustrated by having to tell customers you’re going to be late? Watch A Better Way to Schedule (video)