Better Scheduling Software Won't Solve Your Schedule Problems!

July 19, 2022

Written by: Paul Van Metre

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nearly all the problems with your late jobs will not be solved with “better scheduling software!” It’s not the software that’s the problem. It’s your company processes (or lack of them) that are the culprit. Scheduling software by definition must be able to run its algorithms (if it even has them) off of defined variables. When nearly everything is a variable, a software program can’t possibly account for that. This is why you’ve rarely if ever run across a scheduling software that actually works in a dynamic shop environment - and especially in job shops. 

Here are a small list of things that throws a big wrench in any scheduling software:

  1. You go to set up the job and the material isn’t here yet.
  2. After running your first part, you realize you don’t have a special thread gauge you need for the FAI.
  3. You take a very hot order and subsequently need to expedite 3 other orders through outside processing to keep them on-time.
  4. You decide to add a one-off evening or weekend shift to make up some time you need to catch up on.
  5. You run out of a special cutter mid-production, or maybe it wasn’t even ordered in the first place.
  6. At final inspection, you realize you cut some threads with a regular tap, when it was supposed to be an STI tap for Helicoils, and now you have to run a rework operation on a very overbooked machine.

These are scenarios that happen on a daily basis in most shops, especially job shops, and wreak havoc on any production schedule. There is no way to plan for them, and responding to them is very challenging to any software, So generally the schedule get’s so far off that it's useless and people give up on it and go back to whiteboards with magnets or their heads, which is a poor solution.

The real solution to all this mess, is to fix the root cause of all those problems in the first place. All the issues are solved by more thorough up front estimating and planning processes. And when those variables are largely eliminated, everything gets better. Jobs flow faster. Fires are extinguished before they ever ignite. Jobs ship earlier. Customers are happier. Stress reduces. 

The common theme to those six scenarios is that they are all reactive to a situation that could have been avoided with a more proactive approach to estimating, planning, materials management, procurement, job kitting, and really…everything that happens before scheduling.

I’ve heard from many shop owners that they don’t have time to be more methodical and proactive with their upfront processes. They want to estimate on the drawing with a pencil, shoot a price to the client with an email, and then quickly push the job into the shop when it’s won. They claim it’ll be too expensive to do it any other way. Then they spend the rest of the day running around fighting fires and avoiding phone calls from angry customers when their orders are late without any forewarning. Does that sound like a shop you know?

The goal of a more proactive approach to everything before the machining process is to eliminate variables, and allow the shop to successfully execute according to plan. That is a scalable process that will lead to long term success, on-time delivery, significantly higher customer satisfaction, profitability and company value.

Here are a few examples of a more processed based approach which will eliminate scheduling problems:

  1. Estimate accurate setup/run times and outside processing lead times.
  2. Capture all important flowdowns and key details in a structured way.
  3. Quickly process orders and launch all long lead time activities in parallel.
  4. Methodically build a plan to handle all flowdowns and customer/internal requirements so they support the schedule to deliver on-time.
  5. Provide all relevant information needed to execute to plan to the employees doing the work
  6. Make adjustments in real-time to ensure adherence to the plan

When strategies such as those listed above are employed, it’s remarkable how much easier things get, and how much less time it takes to manage the shop and the schedule. In a remarkable example of how powerful this concept is, consider the story of Trulife Engineered Solutions - a 80-100 person shop running 3 shifts per week and approximately 40 CNC workstations. They maintain a high level of on-time delivery and they invest about 1 hour per day to the activity of scheduling. The reason they can spend so little time scheduling such a large organization is because everything runs so smoothly. And this is precisely because they have dialed in those planning processes so well, that out-of-the-blue scenarios rarely happen and the few last minute changes that do spring up are easy to incorporate and adjust for.

How Can ProShop Help?
Most ERP systems have little to no functionality to have structured workflows to make the above items a core part of the company process and help ensure all of those important details are managed. The net result is that it’s generally managed with spreadsheets and paper documents. ProShop flips this idea on its head and has deeply integrated features to ensure compliance to flowdowns and proactive planning to ensure that accurate targets are set, and that your team can execute to plan with the minimum of effort. The net result is high on-time delivery numbers with a lot less time investment and stress. Sounds like the type of shop that most owners envision having. If you’d like help getting there, we’d love to help! Please reach out to us.

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