APICS 2009 Preview Series, Session 1-Time Management and Master Scheduling: Built from the Same Cloth

I listened to a webinar organized by The Association for Operations Management (APICS) for their upcoming International Conference and Expo,which will be hosted in Toronto, Ontario (Canada) from October 4th to 6th 2009. This is the first webcast in the series, and its title really got my attention: “Time Management and Master Scheduling: Built from the Same Cloth.” The speaker for this webcast was Donald H. Sheldon, the president of DH Sheldon & Associates. He described in this particular webcast the importance of time management within master scheduling.

He brought up few great time management concepts, linking them directly to how current master schedulers can use them for the benefit of the organization. When making decisions and determining what needs to be prioritized in the production line’s master schedule, master schedulers are influenced by many factors. For example, the customer might ask for a faster delivery of the product or a supplier might miss a critical delivery date.

Mr. Sheldon brought up the point that a master schedule of a production needs to have a firm time fence that is not longer than 48 hours. This way, production can be stabilized and the equipment, resources, and material can be used to their full capacity. As we know, when a master production schedule (MPS) is created with an objective in mind, more deliverables are accomplished, less time is wasted, and better communication happens amongst all parties involved. In the presentation, Mr. Sheldon provided an MPS test, which gave an idea of how critical or detrimental the situation could be for organizations not using master scheduling techniques as they should be used. If all or some of the processes listed below exist within your organization, it is suggested that you investigate how effective your planning and scheduling processes are.

  • Your production is running 24/7

  • Your scheduling process directly reports to production management

  • Production line changeover time is above 40 minutes

  • No or minimum preventative maintenance is scheduled for equipment (a lot of production downtime due to equipment malfunctioning)

  • Your sales department has authority to change production scheduling

  • Your master scheduler has no authority or decision power in his/her hands

  • Your organization does not use firm time fences in the business process model or they are greater than 48 hrs

Usually, the major hurdle with the MPS is coping with unknown requests. When multiple authorized parties within an organization are determining the schedule, it becomes very difficult to prioritize needs and to know what the actual requirements are. The best way to control the issue of prioritization is by using the time management technique of categorizing each issue’s importance and then determining the sequence in which it needs to progress.

For example, if an individual has multiple tasks or activities to perform in a time horizon of 24 hours, he/she needs to categorize which items are important, most important, non critical, and critical (show stoppers); this will help the individual create a sequence in which all activities need to happen. This same concept applies to master production scheduling. In MPS, an organization can have a firm orders, replenishment orders, and urgent orders, each order type with its own requirements to fill. For example, the firm order needs to be delivered to the customer on the date committed by the sales team. For this type of order, an organization can either replenish that order through its actual lead time or through its on-hand replenishment inventory, which can be defined by the sales team and the master scheduler. All factors of prioritization need to be considered before a product gets prioritized in the MPS schedule.

Mr. Sheldon defined the process of MRP and pull in the webinar but he did not go into too many details of sales and operations planning (S&OP) and its link with MPS. He mentioned that the S&OP topic will be covered in detail at the APICS convention. For me, the most interesting part of the webinar was how he explained that there has to be accountability for master scheduling within all departments of the organization. He even outlined that performance review of master scheduling needs to happen on a weekly basis to identify actions by process owners and use standardized reporting methods to capture trends and changes in master scheduling. In my past experience, many organizations who failed to understand the trends of their sales cycle and supplier cycle lost profitability and brought inefficiencies into their processes.

This webinar gave me a glimpse of what to expect in the educational sessions of Basics of Operation Management at the APICS conference. My ultimate goal is to provide our readers with some insight into what’s going to happen at the APICS conference, as well use the information presented in these webinars towards an understanding of what can be expected from each educational session. Watch for further blog posts in this series.
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