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Manage the incoming workload

Many of my clients are engaged in contract manufacturing and have lots of different products moving through their factory. The combination of having many customers, products and batch sizes can create a complex environment. When a business like this is struggling to manage their schedules they can slip into a fire fighting situation.

Have you seen different schedules being written down on pieces of paper and handed to your Team Leaders every few hours? The new note is different to the one they received earlier that day and can leave production teams confused. Late orders are chased rather than managed. I realise that demands do change in a business, but not tackling this issue can really diminish productivity.

I am a big fan of having formality in the right places of a business. The right kind of discipline and considered action can have a big impact when used correctly. The kinds of problems I have mentioned above often stem back to one problem. Businesses that don’t consistently allow work into their business in a controlled manner end up chasing their tails!

If your business is in this situation then don’t worry. The remedy is quite simple and can be prevented from recurring in the future. Here are my action points to help you do just this:

Recommended Actions

  • Find out if your capacity planning information is up to date. If it isn’t sort this out first. If you don’t have such a tool then you will need to invent one. Something that is effective but not necessarily 100% accurate can still serve you for the time being.
  • Work out how overloaded your business is. Use the capacity plan to identify what is overloaded when. Reschedule the orders accordingly so that you are left with a realistic production schedule. Communicate this with your customers as soon as possible.
  • Implement a contract review process (or review your existing process if it exists). Be controlled in terms of how you let work into your business. The correct loading of a manufacturing business is, in my eyes, the biggest factor to maintaining control of shop floor schedules. Once the noise gets in, from your customers chasing their orders, all previous plans tend to disappear.

Giles Johnston
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.