Managing manufacturing production is hard, and it’s just one aspect of managing a shop floor. You have due dates to hit and a million variables to consider, whether it’s resource availability, material management, or expedited customer orders dropping in out of sequence.

Whether you thought your traditional ERP scheduling module would optimize your shop floor production and increase your percentage of on-time orders (and it didn’t), or you didn’t bother diving down the rabbit hole and went straight to the whiteboard, the issue is still the same:

There is no shop floor production scheduling best practice that can tell you how to address what you can’t see or control.

If you’re struggling with traditional production scheduling or simply tired of being duped by its false promises, then it’s time to re-examine the only shop floor scheduling best practice that really matters — answering these three fundamental questions.

#1 – Where is the order and how is it progressing?

If you’re already tracking job status via your ERP or by other means, answering this question at the beginning of a job is possible. But as you progress into the middle steps, visibility of that job can quickly become murky.

A major goal of successful production management is to speed up the flow of materials through your shop. To achieve this, you also need to speed up the flow of accurate, real-time information directly to the shop floor.

Visibility is key: into what work center the job is in, the number of operations that need to happen and how long they will take, and how much time (outside of ‘touch time’) remains to complete the job.

One job might simply need to be deburred and inspected while another in the same department needs heat treating and multiple processes before it’s done. Being able to see downstream operations is not only critical to understanding where a job is at in its journey, but also to answering the second fundamental question of why one job should be worked on before another, regardless of the due date.

#2 – Which job do I work on next?

How do shop managers really know which job to work on next when you have a stack of 70+ work orders on your desk, some of which have multiple levels of subassemblies to track and multiple jobs happening at a single work center?

To answer this question with any confidence, you need to know more than just the work order due date. You also need to have visibility into the progress of any order relative to the work that remains and the time left for your shop to get it done.

Unfortunately, most traditional shop floor scheduling systems prioritize jobs based on due date alone. The sooner an order is due, the more priority it’s given, which entirely ignores the factors that may determine whether a job is in jeopardy.

For example, a job that’s due in eight weeks might actually be more at risk of being delivered late than an order that’s due in a week or two simply because of the job’s complexity.

#3 – How can I tell my customers when they will get their order?

While it seems logical that the sooner you get material out on the shop floor, the sooner it will be returned as a finished product, this intuition doesn’t hold up in practice. The more you flood work in process (WIP), the more likely jobs will stall, impeding progress and causing order delays.

The ability to confidently answer this third question comes from having visibility into more than just current capacity on the shop floor, but also into future capacity and any variables (e.g. material/tooling availability) that could prevent you from hitting your promised delivery dates.

Any shop floor scheduling best practice, method, or system that isn’t designed to give you this visibility using the same approach you use to prioritize and execute, day in and out, is about as useful as a concrete lifevest.

How PFM Can Help You Answer These Questions

Protected Flow Manufacturing™ (PFM) helps you drastically improve on-time delivery using a flow-based paradigm that dramatically accelerates the speed of information and materials moving through your shop.

PFM is designed to work the way you think, helping you track and make decisions to ensure all of the key pieces come together at the right time.

With PFM’s Threat-Level Prioritization, you can:

  • Gain instant visibility into your entire WIP status and associated Threat Levels
  • Identify at-risk work orders and problematic operations that need urgent attention, regardless of due dates
  • Always know exactly which job to work on next

Drilling down into the status of an individual job to evaluate its Threat Level and risk of being late (regardless of due dates) gives you actionable intelligence that the people on the floor can actually use to get orders out the door on time.