Delivering jobs on time is a constant challenge for manufacturers. Too little buffer time, and a work order will be delivered late. Too much, and the shop floor might be flooded with too many jobs in WIP, causing more delays.

While it’s not as obvious or visible as a broken machine or an employee absence, time mismanagement is more often a silent killer of shop floor production. Traditional ERP and APS-based scheduling systems promise to prioritize jobs in the “correct” order, but struggle to account for unforeseen delays and mid-production complications.

This is the crux of it. The conventional approach to shop floor production scheduling — the foundation of practically every scheduling software developed over the last four decades — doesn’t deal with time in a way that reflects the reality of your shop floor.

Why Shop Floor Scheduling and Time Don’t Mix

For traditional scheduling to provide useful priorities, the parameters the system uses to generate estimates — such as run times — must play out exactly as predicted, which rarely happens in practice. Unforeseen circumstances like delayed material delivery throws off all the calculations and renders them inaccurate.

Some manufacturers try to manage this uncertainty by allowing generous buffer time for each work order. While this approach is better than leaving no buffer, it can have unintended consequences: Generous buffer times often lead to too many jobs getting pushed into WIP, which backs up the entire shop floor and leads to the exact delays you were trying to avoid in the first place.

Regardless of what shop floor production scheduling approach the manufacturers uses or how much buffer time it allows for, shops lose visibility past the first couple steps of the job. This prevents manufacturers from prioritizing the work orders that are truly in danger of being delivered late.

How Time Eats into Your Bottom Line

Work orders that are taking up shop floor capacity prevent the company from starting on new jobs that bring in additional revenue. Severe delays may force manufacturers to expedite the job, outsource parts of the process, or offer a discount or “make good” to the customer, all of which reduce revenue and profit and hurts the company’s reputation with both current and prospective customers.

Even if jobs aren’t technically late, slow turnover reduces work order completion rate, and eats into profitability. It also makes material resource planning a game of cat and mouse, with materials often ordered out of sync with production, which ties up cash flow.

From a labor perspective, shops often waste valuable man-hours in inefficient, ineffective production meetings trying to align operations and the shop floor around job prioritization that makes sense. If the shop floor is in “constant expedite” mode due to chronic delays, the long hours can also take a toll on employees and lead to burn out and turnover, further delaying jobs.

A Better Way to Deal With Time on the Shop Floor

The key to preventing time from killing your bottom line isn’t doubling down on traditional shop floor scheduling software or feeding the floor more buffer time — it’s speeding up the flow of information and materials throughout your shop.

Accelerating the flow of information to where the work actually happens means your people can make informed decisions that will increase both the speed of execution and confidence.

Protected Flow Manufacturing™ (PFM) helps manufacturers deliver this real-time visibility to the people on the shop floor who need it most.

Unlike traditional scheduling approaches that focus first on creating a plan and then sending that (typically already DOA) out to the shop floor to attempt to execute, PFM focuses first on the correct execution of jobs using common-sense, real-time, dynamic prioritization. These priorities, called Threat Levels, maximize your shop’s ability to deliver all of your jobs on time.

With PFM’s Threat-Level Prioritization, shop floors can:

  • Gain instant visibility into the 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