Scheduling is important for any planning manager who intends to meet the demands of their clients at the appropriate time. Although managing smaller production procedures and fewer orders might be simpler, scheduling is critical in large production and supply chains. Due to the automation of the manufacturing line and integration of supply chains into the market, a production manager in a manufacturing firm is able to forecast the clients’ needs and plan how to meet these needs in time. Therefore, the production manager will have to conduct capacity, short-term, aggregate, and master planning in order for the manufacturing line to meet its supply expectations. Although the scheduling process may be tedious when done manually, there are various tools that significantly facilitate this process.
Relationship between Short-term Scheduling, Capacity Planning, Aggregate Planning, and Master Schedule
There are many planning and scheduling activities involved in production procedures. These activities are related to one another and help in supporting operations in a firm. Capacity planning is the art of managing the sequences, levels, and schedules of an organization to meet its demands effectively (Kerzner & Kerzner, 2017). It is an essential part of a firm’s supply chain since it facilitates fulfillment of customers’ demands. A short-term schedule is a table highlighting the work, equipment, and resources of a firm at any time (Kerzner & Kerzner, 2017). As such, it is a timetable of all the specific events happening in a firm at a given period. A short-term schedule is closely related to a master schedule since the latter outlines the time frame for producing individual products (Flaharty & Waheed, 2015). Meanwhile, a short-term schedule details the plan involved in utilizing the specific resources for such production. Aggregate planning is a medium-term production schedule for a family of products developed from forecasted demand, production, and capacity plans (Malakooti, 2013). Therefore, production schedules begin at capacity plans to develop aggregate plans. Aggregate plans are simplified into master schedules, which are specifically detailed in short-term schedules used in production (Malakooti, 2013). Hence, production schedules begin from broad capacity planning and aggregate plans to specific production activities in short-term schedules.
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Scheduling Methods and Techniques
In the event of simple projects that constitute few defined activities, it is possible for a single individual to comprehend the entire project without difficulty. Unfortunately, majority of projects include multiple activities. Consequently, this requires organizing activities in a manner that will allow efficient communication and planning to facilitate management of a project. In this regard, various techniques exist to create work schedules adopted for different situations. Scheduling eliminates delays, facilitates accountability, and acts as a communication and contract tool to establish payment schemes or contractual period (Carstens, Richardson, & Smith, 2016). The techniques include the Gantt chart, critical path method (CPM), program evaluation and review technique (PERT), and the Microsoft Project.
The Gantt chart is one of the most superior techniques of matrix scheduling. The chart is easy to understand as it enables managers to communicate on the intended progress of the project to other employees (“Definition of Gantt chart,” 2018). The technique uses horizontal bar charts plotted over a given period to give a visual representation of the expected work schedule (De Marco, 2018). As such, it is a useful tool for tracking project progress. The vertical axis shows the tasks, while the horizontal axis displays the time period. The technique is primarily used in scheduling production processes, events, and creating employee roster (“Definition of Gantt chart,” 2018). However, its main limitation is that it does not present the progress of activities in detail. Furthermore, despite giving a visual perspective of the work schedule, the Gantt chart fails to give the interrelation between activities.
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On the other hand, the PERT technique offers a schedule for activities or projects with uncertain activity times. The technique was developed by the US Navy during the Polaris missile program (Rouse, 2018). The chart illustrates a project through a network of diagrams. Its elements include numbered nodes and vectors. The nodes show events, while the vectors link the nodes to show tasks within the project. The chart shows the sequence of tasks via the direction of arrows, and the tasks must be undertaken in that sequence or simultaneously (Rouse, 2018). The technique is used in a various types of projects. This includes constructing buildings and roads, maintaining complex equipment, and designing and installing new systems (Rouse, 2018). Its major limitation is complexity, which makes it difficult to understand. Nevertheless, in some instances, its illustration of task dependencies makes it preferable over the Gantt chart.
Finally, the CPM refers to a step-by-step technique used in the identification of activities along a critical path. The technique uses nodes to show tasks, and lines or arrows to show sequence between tasks (Usmani, 2018). The technique clearly presents project activity time and prevents projects from lagging behind. As such, primarily finds use in the projects within IT, construction, as well as research (Usmani, 2018). As such, the technique is useful in repetitive activities that have completion time that is well known.
The Gantt Chart Description
The Gantt chart for developing a new phone prototype is scheduled to take 6 months. The first phase of the project will involve project analysis and take the first five weeks. Week 1 will comprise of preliminary meetings amongst stakeholders and firm engineers to deliberate on the idea. During week 2, the board shall have discuss and assess the project to determine its feasibility. During week 3, the firm will assess its capacity to handle this project before approving it in week 4 and releasing funds as well as announcements for the project in week 5.
The second phase will include all the activities for designing the prototype. During the first two weeks, all engineers will work on designing the shape of the phone. The engineers will be divided into separate groups to design the motherboard, memory system, and power system for four weeks. They will also coordinate to design the camera from week 10 to week 12, as well as exterior pots in weeks 12 and 13. After completing these designs, they will begin production of the prototype parts.
The prototype development will take eight weeks. This production process covers three weeks for the phone chases, two weeks for the motherboard, two weeks for the memory system, two weeks for the power system, two weeks for the camera, and two weeks for production of the exterior attachment ports. All the stages overlap one another for a week as the steps move from one production level to another. The testing stage for the prototype will take five weeks. This stage will involve performing the prototype tests, assessing performance, adjusting weaknesses, completing the development. Each of the tasks will take one week, with a week left in case of any time constraints. During this process, moving to the next task will take place after full completion of the previous task.
Scheduling is an important aspect of ensuring the achievement of project timelines. The process helps to break down multiple tasks into portions with specific timelines. Consequently, this assists in the realization of smooth organizational operations when undertaking projects. Depending on the nature of a project, there are various scheduling techniques, such as the Gantt chart, CPM, and PERT. The Gantt chart is among the most widely used techniques as it is relatively simple to comprehend as compared to the CPM and PERT. As such, it is important for a business to embrace scheduling techniques in the planning and execution of projects.