9/10/15 8:28 PM
By Alex Chiu
Centuries after the first manufacturing plant, production scheduling remains an issue for factories. At first this task wasn't as daunting as plants specialized on only one or two products at a time. However, over the years of technological advancement, managers and factory owners began to study the efficiency of production lines.
A look at the history of manufacturing scheduling would not be complete without first beginning with Frederick Taylor. Taylor is considered one of the forefathers of industrial efficiency. Through his observations of the workforce, Taylor noticed that laborers who took breaks showed less physical and mental fatigue and were thus able to perform more efficiently. Indeed, it was his belief that the effectiveness of a manufacturing facility depended greatly upon its labor. He supported having set operational processes that were understood by employers and employees alike so that every member of the production floor can make informed decisions. His scientific analysis of the manufacturing process began a greater movement into the study of efficiency.
Karol Adamiecki and Henry Gantt entered into production scheduling by modifying bar charts to itemize steps in a schedule based on a calendar. These two engineers invented very similar methods. However, Adamiecki did not publish his until 1931, by which time Gantt's 1915 efforts had become the standard. Bars were used to show the planned period for each step of a process, quickly communicating scheduling information to everyone in a factory. Naturally, Gantt charts became the primary scheduling tool in many modern manufacturing facilities.
Gantt's production scheduling worked well in a single factory, however coordinating activities in multiple production facilities proved difficult. Fortunately, Johnson’s Rule helped to eliminate some of these problems. Johnson made it possible to find the most efficient time for each stage of the manufacturing process and determine a schedule that would allow all facilities to work together to create product in the most economical manner.
Johnson’s Rule served as a significant breakthrough. A multitude of companies were growing internationally, and this insight made it easier to manage multiple production facilities across the globe. These charts incorporated the tasks of all plants within a company and scheduled them according to completion speed. Whereas Gantt charts scheduled tasks, Johnson's Rule created optimized sequences. For example, if Facility One can outproduce Facility Two for Component A, then Facility One becomes the official producer for Component A across the company. Though this method had the potential to decrease overall production time within a multi-plant company, results varied greatly upon communication between facilities.
This process exists within the industry today, though now it's computerized. Scheduling software cross-references the production schedules of multiple plants to inform users of suggested changes to maximize performance. Anyone granted access can now update a production schedule almost instantaneously from across the globe.
In today’s modern factory, production scheduling is a top priority. The ability to produce hundreds of different products at a moment’s notice is necessary to maintain customer satisfaction and a competitive status within a given industry. This means it's imperative to a company’s well-being that a production schedule is precisely regulated to ensure the product is produced in a cost-effective manner. A production schedule also keeps the process adaptable to ever-changing industry standards.