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6 Lessons for Successful Implementations: Get your Production Scheduling Done Right the First Time

Companies with increasingly complex manufacturing systems often find themselves needing better production schedules. This need can stem from shrinking margins due to stiff competition or escalating waste in products and resources. Issues like machines staying idle, products being discarded or sold at deep discounts, and personnel furloughs become apparent. As a Plant or Production Manager, you realize that relying on cumbersome spreadsheet models is no longer viable for efficient scheduling.

Convincing your COO and CFO about the necessity of a new production scheduling solution, you dive into market research. The buzzwords—“automated,” “fully integrated,” “advanced,” and “algorithmic”—promise solutions that seem to offer exactly what you need: a fast, efficient, and optimized scheduling tool. The appeal is strong, but the reality is more complex: an out-of-the-box solution doesn’t exist that can solve your production scheduling problems. However, you can achieve this with the right approach.  Here are six things to consider on your journey to a successful implementation.

1. Do NOT Fire Your Production Scheduler!

Your scheduler is your most valuable resource. The goal of a new scheduling solution should not be to replace your scheduler but to enhance their efficiency. Your experienced scheduler understands the plant's workflow and the unwritten rules that govern production schedules. Their insights are crucial in setting business objectives and constraints for the new system. Keeping them involved ensures the new solution adapts to changes and continues to deliver optimal results.

2. Think Big, but Start Small

Begin with a comprehensive assessment to design your ideal solution. Gather requirements from a broad set of stakeholders and consider all business objectives and constraints. However, implement the solution in phases, starting with a Pilot phase. This phase should deliver 80% of the expected benefits with only 20% of the planned functionality. This approach allows users to become familiar with the prototype and identify additional features for future phases.

3. Test, Test, and Test Again

Thorough testing is critical. Set up test sets using historical data to compare the new tool’s performance against past results. Conduct user acceptance testing and stress tests under unusual scenarios. Continuous testing ensures the solution works as expected and handles unforeseen circumstances. It also provides valuable training for users and feedback to refine the system.

4. Train the Scheduler and Production Manager

Training should be an integral part of the implementation journey. It ensures users are comfortable with the new system and provides an opportunity to gather feedback. Regular training sessions at each project milestone help in fine-tuning the solution and incorporating valuable insights from experienced users.

5. Integrate Only After You Evaluate

Rushing to automate data input and output or integrating with existing systems can be counterproductive. Focus first on ensuring the solution works correctly and delivers the expected value. Once the core functionality is validated, then automate and integrate to realize the remaining benefits and enhance user experience.

6. Track Your Progress and Follow Through

Implementation is just the beginning. Monitor and measure the solution’s performance regularly. Communicate the benefits to plant management and operators to maintain credibility and manage changes effectively. Ensure continuous improvement and adaptation of the system to evolving operational needs.

By following these lessons, you can avoid common pitfalls and increase the likelihood of success for your production scheduling project. For more detailed information, click here.

Implementing a new production scheduling solution requires careful planning, thorough testing, and continuous improvement. With the right approach and buy-in from stakeholders, you can achieve significant improvements in efficiency and productivity.


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