production planning

Production planning is the act of developing a guide for the design and production of a given product or service. Production planning helps organizations make the production process as efficient as possible. Production planning originated to optimize the manufacturing process, and today its general logic is applied in various forms to design, production and delivery of software as well.

Why is production planning important?

Production planning is important because it creates an efficient process for production according to customer and organizational needs. It optimizes both customer-dependent processes -- such as on-time delivery -- and customer-independent processes, such as production cycle time.

A good production plan minimizes lead time, which is the amount of time that passes between the placing of an order and the completion and delivery of that order. Depending on the company and the type of production planning necessary, the definition of lead time varies slightly. In supply chain management, for example, lead time includes the amount of time it takes for parts to ship from a supplier. This is included because the manufacturing business needs to know when the parts will arrive to properly execute material requirements planning (MRP). This is especially important with tight manufacturing constraints or just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing.

Production planning process

The production planning process involves the following steps:

  • Estimate product demand -- This will a give a rough outline of how many products should be produced in a given time period. This estimate is generated by combining analysis of historical production trends with new potentially relevant trends in the market.
  • Weigh production options -- This involves accounting for the resources on hand and exploring ways to most effectively use them based on projected demand estimates.
  • Choose the most efficient option -- The use of resources that is the least costly and most time-efficient should be chosen.
  • Monitoring and evaluation -- As the plan is carried out, companies monitor what is happening compared to what should be happening according to the plan, and evaluate how well those two match up.
  • Adjust plan -- This involves altering the plan so that future production plans meet customer goals more efficiently and are more successful in their execution.

Types of production planning

There are many types of production planning that focus on various particulars of the production process. Some of these include:

  • Master production schedule (MPS) -- These are schedules for individual, specific commodities to be produced in a given time period. They are often generated by software, and then adjusted by users.
  • Material requirements planning -- MRP is a system used for production planning, scheduling and inventory control. MRP ensures the availability of raw materials, maintains the lowest possible material and product levels in-house, and plans manufacturing and purchasing activities. It is often automated to some extent by software, but can be performed completely manually as well.
  • Capacity planning -- This is the process of determining what capacity an organization has to meet changing demands.
  • Workflow planning -- This is the planning of a sequence of operations performed by an employee or group of employees.

There are also various planning types that apply the logic of production planning to areas other than manufacturing, or complementary areas. For example, human resources planning involves optimizing processes that allow a company to meet their hiring and talent demands. Other examples include:

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) -- This is the integration of main business processes into one unified system, often through the use of software.
  • Sales and operations planning (S&OP) -- This is the process for more accurately matching a manufacturer's supply with existing demand.

Production scheduling

Production scheduling is like production control. Production scheduling is the allocation of available resources to production processes and events. It is essentially the mapping of actual resources to the production plan built for them. Scheduling is used to plan use of factory equipment and resources, human resources, and to plan processes and material purchasing. Scheduling is necessary to create a production plan. Production plans aim to ultimately deliver on customer demand. The goal of a production schedule is to create the most efficient production plan possible.

History of production planning

Modern production planning has its roots in the first half of the 19th century. It developed out of a need for information around internal planning in control. Entities like railroads, textile mills and other factories needed internal administrative frameworks to guide the multiple processes involved in providing their basic product or service at a large scale.

The first production plans were simple. Factories were relatively small and produced a limited number of products in large batch sizes. Factory foremen were technical experts in their field, and handled all planning and scheduling, which sometimes would include no more than a list of production orders and the date at which they were to be completed.

As the production line and manufacturing efforts as a whole became bigger and more complex, more involved production planning was necessary. By the beginning of the 20th century, plans began focusing on not just delivering orders, but optimizing the processes required to do so, so that production process flow could be as even as possible at the minimum possible production cost.

Today, as the nature of production methods and manufacturing has changed, so has production planning. The technology surrounding production has evolved, enabling more precise communication and monitoring of and around production. The products themselves, and customer expectations, have also evolved. Now, there is more information available than ever before for organizations to weigh when creating their production plans.

This was last updated in November 2020

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