Skip to main content

Are Your Production Peaks Hidden?

One of the biggest reasons that a business delivers late is due to an uneven order book. Huge peaks in some weeks and next to nothing in other weeks. Getting a grip over this situation can make a massive difference in your quest for consistent on time delivery (without the headache).

There are usually two steps to resolving this situation; balancing out what you already have and stopping it from happening again.

The first step, re-balancing your order book, can be straightforward or a large task, depending on the type of work you produce and the complexity of the process it has to go through in order to complete the work. Whatever situation you are in it is essential that you complete this exercise to its logical completion. Many businesses re-balance the first few weeks (which contains overdue orders that have built up over time) and leave it at that. A few more weeks down the line and these businesses are back to where they have started (they just moved the biggest peak back a few weeks and they have hit it again).

BEWARE: If you run a MRP / ERP system using finite scheduling you may not be able to see these peaks easily!

Make sure that you can see the peaks in demand and then devise a process to re-balance your order book, moving the work* out until you reach available capacity in your schedule.

The second step mentioned above was stopping this situation from happening again. The contract review process (when you have won the work, but haven't scheduled it) is a prime driver for managing this process. Whether you have loading / 'what if' tools at your disposal, or you need to use capacity charts (or something similar) you need to make sure that you have enough capacity to deal with the work that you are about to take on. This single step in the order fulfillment process can make all the difference between delivering late and delivering on time (and within budget). This step in the process is an one that I see decay rapidly in many businesses, sentencing the business to go through the loop of re-balancing and re-establishing their contract review process.

So, the point of this post? Find the peaks in your order book and reschedule them (forwards or backwards) so that your production team can do what they do best. Then make sure that your supporting processes work well enough that you can prevent this situation for re-occurring in the future. Keep a look out for these problems looming in the horizon; if you can't see the peaks (or you don't look for them) then you can't manage them effectively.




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

* Of course there are other levers you can pull such as overtime, sub-contracting, re-deployment, agency workers etc... before you have to move the order book items. Determining the correct course of action is up to you!

Popular posts from this blog

Where there is a (performance) gap there is a concern

I had a really good day yesterday working with a client's team.

The team has issues. Plenty of issues. Some are managerial issues, some are people issues and some are production issues.

When I first met the team they didn't know what to do with their issues, so I started by helping them to see more issues.

Issues everywhere, they didn't seem very impressed.

And then we captured the issues as 'concerns' into the tried and tested 'concern cause countermeasure' format and followed the process:

Concerns probed for root causes and root causes converted into countermeasures.
Soon they realised that some of their root causes dealt with numerous concerns and they gained momentum.

Yesterday we pulled another one of their processes apart and identified all of the gaps. The gaps became concerns and we fed them back into the process. Now they have a practical action plan (of countermeasures) to upgrade the process in question.

What do you do with your performance gaps? …

Continuous Improvement and the Five Legged Race

Many improvement projects need the buy in of several people before they can progress. Amongst these people there will be some that have a firm view of what needs to happen and are keen to make progress. Some of the people won't be sure and they will need more time. Other people might not be that interested and have other priorities they want to focus on.

None of this is wrong.

It is an observation of mine and one that I see repeat on a regular basis with the businesses that I come into contact with.

But, if we take the principle from the observation we have an interesting improvement strategy (one that I personally use when I get stuck with my client's improvement projects).

You might have worked out the approach from the title of this blog post, but it is analogous to a three-legged race (or four, five, nine...). If someone in the group moves in the wrong direction and / or at the wrong speed then the whole group falls over.


In the example I gave at the start it is no differe…

Do you have time to prepare (in order to become super productive)?

I had a funny conversation a few weeks ago with a team that was complaining about one of their colleagues spending 'ages' preparing their workstation within their factory. I meet a lot of people that spend too long preparing (and effectively procrastinating) so I was intrigued by their comment. It turns out that this individual didn't spend too long but rather his colleagues dived into their work without thinking through what the best way to work was...

The slower to start gentleman did in fact prepare his work area. He was also able to produce a far greater amount of work in the same time period because he had invested in a smarter way of working than his counterparts. The time spent preparing his working area was valuable and not overdone.

This example reminds us of the importance of the second S in 5S (set in order) and how workstation design is critical if we want to maximise the productivity of our teams. Whether this is a physical work area in a factory, the filing s…