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Takahashi's Scheduler Case Book: Chapter 9

The Suspicious Case of the Product Planning Scheduler

I installed a production scheduler at an auto parts manufacturing plant for Company I several years ago and had decided to pay them a visit to see how the scheduler was still operating. The first question I asked was why they weren't using KANBAN even though they were an auto parts factory. However, they replied that using KANBAN does not fit an auto parts factory that has many steps in the manufacturing process. This factory was using a production scheduler but it was not making full use of it. If you wonder in what way they were not using it to the fullest extent, it is that they did not use the results from scheduling to provide instructions for production. This would be startling to anyone who has ever used a production scheduler.

What does a production scheduler do for us by calculating a schedule?  It makes the preparations for production. In one of the books that describe the Toyota Production System, in order to use KANBAN they first have to prepare for production based on three months worth of unofficial order information.  The main work in preparing for production is firstly, calculate the quantity of parts needed from the unofficial order information and order any necessary raw materials from their suppliers and secondly, use the unofficial order information to check on the load conditions in the plant. At this plant those two jobs were performed using the schedule results obtained from the production scheduler. Because the requirements for the raw materials, the quantities of parts needed, and the equipment load conditions were already close to being satisfied when the actual production started, production can be performed by onsite discretion so that confirmed orders can be completed on time. (This way of using a production scheduler makes it more of an APS [Advanced Planning and Scheduling] or a product planning scheduler than it does a standard production scheduler.)

A production method like this is effective when used to manufacture a product with relatively stable demand such as auto parts. However, even for auto parts when it becomes difficult it becomes to predict fluctuations in demand, for example, with the production of special vehicles such as trucks, construction machines, fire engines and ambulances then there will be a greater need for the generation of work instructions by means of production schedulers. Even when fluctuations in demand are large, a production scheduler can calculate today what is needed in three months if it has received three-month's worth of unofficial order information.  However, it is impossible to forecast what will happen in three months by onsite discretion and provide a production schedule today for that forecast.

One of my beliefs as a businessman is that if you can read the future then you can predict the outcome in advance. Just how far can you read ahead?

Case Closed. . .

Learn more about Production Scheduling at Production Scheduling System Asprova

Written by Kuniyoshi Takahashi: Production Scheduling Case Book

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