What Is a Production Schedule? (Importance and Helpful Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 27, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Manufacturers use strategies to ensure they don't over- or under-produce products. Production scheduling helps organizations know what they're making and the specifics of materials and costs. If you're a production or manufacturing manager or you want to become one, learning more about production scheduling can help you improve your knowledge and skills. In this article, we answer "What is a production schedule?", explore why production scheduling is important, detail the six stages in the production scheduling process, list the benefits of using one, and offer helpful tips for scheduling production effectively.

What is a production schedule?

Learning the answer to "What is a production schedule?" can help you improve your production and manufacturing knowledge. A production schedule is an organized plan that businesses use to streamline the process of introducing their products to their consumer market. These schedules include aspects like:

  • Raw materials: Raw materials are the necessary substances or components an operation uses to create a product. For example, when manufacturing furniture, a company may use raw materials like wood and cloth.

  • Labour: Labour refers to the staff members necessary to complete the process. For example, the furniture-making company may consider how many chair-makers they have, how much it costs to pay them, and how long it takes each to complete a chair.

  • Logistics: Production logistics is the movement of components within the production process. Logistics consider materials, labour, packaging, shipping, and distribution.

  • Costs: Costs refer to all expenses an organization may incur while producing a product. This can include the costs for machinery, a building, labour, materials, marketing, and salespeople.

  • Production timeframe: The timeframe is the measure between the beginning of the production process and the end. This helps production managers understand how long it takes to complete a single unit.

Related: What Does a Production Assistant Do? (Duties and Salary)

Why are production schedules important?

Companies often develop production schedules before they begin their manufacturing processes. These are some benefits companies may experience when they use a production schedule:

  • Determine the cost of producing a particular product, including production and labour costs.

  • Allocate enough financial resources to each stage of production.

  • Ensure that a product reaches the consumer market quickly and efficiently.

  • Determine how much time they may require to complete production and transport their product to distributors.

  • Ensure the production of the correct amount of a resource.

Related: What Does a Production Worker Do? (With Examples and FAQs)

6 stages of production scheduling

Production schedules help companies organize many complex processes, and implementing them successfully often involves these six steps:

1. Plan

The first stage of creating a production schedule is planning, which is often the most important step. In this stage, production schedulers define a production goal and analyze the necessary resources and budget to achieve it. Before creating your production schedule, consider which type of planning is optimal for the business's processes. There are often two types of planning that professionals consider, including:

  • Static planning: Static planning is a type of planning in which you don't consider potential changes. In this type of planning, you ignore potential changes to the business and the environment.

  • Dynamic planning: This type of planning considers all aspects of the situation and focuses on responsiveness. When the market changes, this type of plan provides support for changing strategies and goals.

Related: What Is Just-In-Time Production? (Definition, Pros, and Cons)

2. Route

The second step in production scheduling is routing. During this step, you determine from where the raw materials for production originate. You can then decide what's the most cost-effective way to get the materials and deliver them to your team to begin production. Reducing costs during this step can help you lower the overall costs of the production process.

Related: Understanding the Production Possibilities Frontier

3. Schedule

Scheduling establishes the time frame for the completion of each stage of production. It also clearly states a final deadline for completing the entire project. Scheduling can fall into three types, including:

  • Master production schedule: A master schedule is a plan for manufacturing a product within a specific time frame. It includes elements such as personnel, budget, routing processes, and resources.

  • Manufacturing schedule: This type of schedule is a plan for production that only includes the steps required to turn raw materials into a finished product.

  • Retail operations schedule: These schedules are similar to master production schedules, but concern products designed for retailers instead of direct sales to customers.

Related: Production Possibilities Curve: Definition and Benefits

4. Communicate

After planning, routing, and scheduling, it's important to communicate this information. Consider which staff members can benefit from knowledge of the production schedule and be sure that information is available to them. You can lead a meeting and educate team members about the production schedule to give them the opportunity to ask questions and to make sure they understand the schedule.

5. Dispatch

Dispatching entails implementing the processes schedulers have prepared. In this stage, production schedulers ensure that all resources are available and ready to begin production. They also issue instructions to personnel involved in production so they understand their distinct roles within the production schedule.

Related: What Is the Production Possibilities Frontier Curve?

6. Execute

The final step of the production scheduling process is the realization of the schedule's plans. Schedulers ensure the following:

  • All processes operate efficiently.

  • Production finishes within the established time frame.

  • Each customer receives their order in a timely and efficient manner.

Related: A Guide to Production Supervisor Interview Questions

7. Maintain

There may be changes throughout the production process that affect the original schedule and make it necessary for production schedulers to alter the plan. Monitoring and updating the schedule throughout the process can help production managers ensure the plan is continuously up-to-date. As they update the schedule, it's also important to share the new schedule with everyone involved to ensure all team members are aware of the new expectations and plan.

Related: What Is Mass Production? (With Goals and Advantages)

Production schedule benefits

Companies that create production schedules may experience several benefits, including:

  • Decreased costs: When companies don't use production schedules, it can result in over-ordering of materials, wasted time, or unused labour. Creating a production plan allows you to avoid these disadvantages and optimize the money spent on production, which can decrease overall costs.

  • Fewer shortages: An effective production schedule can ensure a company accounts for the proper amount of material and obtains it efficiently. This can prevent shortages that lead to delayed order fulfilment.

  • Minimized lead times: These schedules can also help a company minimize its lead times, or the time between a customer placing an order and the time in which they receive it.

  • Increased customer satisfaction: Production schedules can also help companies fulfil their customers' orders in a timely manner, which can maintain and increase customer satisfaction.

  • Improved company reputation: Companies with reputations for quick and efficient production and supply may benefit from an improved attitude from customers.

Related: Manufacturing vs. Production: How Do the Processes Differ?

Tips for production scheduling

These are some helpful tips you can use when determining the production schedule:

  • Evaluate and adjust your strategy. Scheduling for production is something that can continually improve, so it's important to evaluate your strategy and identify areas for improvement. Consider working with a consultant to learn more about how you can optimize your production planning.

  • Consider using production planning software. There are many programs you can use to simplify and automate production planning processes. Consider reviewing the features of popular programs and learning if they're right for your production scheduling and planning situation.

  • Gather information about potential risks. There are many risks to production scheduling, and gathering information about them can help you predict them or create plans for managing them if they happen. For example, it can be helpful to learn about potential materials shortages and what materials you can substitute if you can't obtain your normal raw materials.

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