— If we haven’t accounted for variability, our plan can go awry —

Who doesn’t rely on planning experts nowadays? There are financial planners, diet and nutrition planners, life planners, and on and on it goes. It seems as if we can’t manage our complicated, time-stressed and hectic lives on our own.

Perhaps we’ve been humbled a few too many times to trust our own planning skills. Driving is a case in point.

At first glance, planning a drive seems to be straight-forward. We simply determine the travel distance and divide by the expected average speed to be driven under perfect conditions. Voila – we have a plan!

However, if we haven’t accounted for variability, our plan can go awry. Will we have to stop for gas? Will we be able to keep to the speed limit? Will there be road construction? We must factor in a time buffer that accounts for the unexpected if we wish to arrive on time at our destination.

— We must also consider the penalty for late arrivals —

There are other issues to consider. For those of us who drive to work every day, the lateness caused by our small miscalculations can be costly. So, we must also consider the penalty for late arrivals. For example, hourly employees can lose income and exempt employees can lose management’s confidence. Worse still, chronic tardiness can result in losing our job.

We need to budget time for the unexpected, so using a time buffer can help us avoid a penalty. The amount of buffer time that is allocated will depend upon the degree of penalty we are willing to accept.

Do you see where this discussion is leading? This short series of articles will compare and contrast the task of planning and executing a drive with production scheduling in a manufacturing plant.

As a manufacturing manager, you probably recognize the relevance of the concepts referenced above to the task of production scheduling. When variability, penalty and time buffer are factored into our shop floor scheduling plans, we can better understand, manage and control the production process.

In the next article (2 of 5), we’ll plan the drive. We’ll think through how we might calculate our departure to arrive on time at the destination. The series will continue as we track our progress against the plan. We’ll also discuss what we’ve learned.

As we hope you’ll see, this thought exercise will yield valuable insights. Specifically, we’ll discuss how manufacturing scheduling can be improved when we do a better job of managing variability. Importantly, we’ll learn how time buffers can help us avoid the penalty of missed due dates (and lost customers).

Although we might not leverage the knowledge gained to begin new careers as professional planners, we’re certain to be much the better for it – as both individual drivers and manufacturing managers.

Let’s get going!

What variables most commonly affect your daily drive? Have you ever been penalized for arriving late?


About Protected Flow Manufacturing™ (PFM)

Protected Flow Manufacturing™ (PFM) is a revolutionary new Manufacturing Execution and Planning System. Aimed specifically at the crucial area of “production execution”, Protected Flow Manufacturing™ continually directs production priorities to minimize wait time and maximize on-time delivery using data fed from a customer’s existing ERP system that customers can act on.

Learn more at www.protectedflowmanufacturing.com.