Production Planning in Manufacturing: Best Practices for Production Plans

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As the creation of products and services has become more extensive and varied, manufacturing has become more elaborate. There are, quite literally, more moving parts than ever before. Operations continue to become more complex, and this means production requires more thorough planning.

A production plan is the best way to guarantee you deliver high-quality products/services as efficiently as possible.

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What Is Production Planning?

Production planning is the process of deciding how a product or service will be manufactured before the process begins. In other words, it is how you plan to manage your raw materials, employees and the physical space where the manufacturing takes place.

Think about a manufacturing operation that has historically produced one product or offered one service. Now, let’s say they’ve decided they can use their resources to create three different products or services at once and increase profits. This change demands fresh production planning.

Why Is Production Planning Important?

If a manufacturing operation wishes to expand, that evolution demands careful planning. Someone must take on the responsibility of managing resources and deciding how they will be allocated. This process is a big part of capacity planning—how much can be made in a certain period of time, with the available resources?

Without production planning, it is easy to use too much of a resource for one product and not leave enough for another. It’s just as easy to let resources go to waste. Both issues indicate a lack of efficiency in your process.

No matter the product or service or the size of the operation, production planning is the best way to ensure resources are used appropriately, products and services are high-quality and nothing goes over budget.

The Different Types of Production Plans

Every operation is unique, and the same production plan isn’t right for everyone. In order to get the most from project planning, you need to decide which method is best for you. That said, here’s a quick intro to the different types of production plans.

Job Method

The job method is often used when manufacturing various products or services with the same set or resources. This production planning method is generally used in smaller-scale productions, but it can also be applied to larger manufacturing facilities. The job method is especially advantageous when a product or service requires specific customizations.

Batch Method

Batch planning is often useful when operations are expanding to produce a wider variety of products. Although the products being produced are different, many will require some of the same resources. The batch method accounts for this “crossover” and supplies enough total resources for each specific product.

Flow Method

The flow method is similar to the batch method, but better suited for producing a complex product that has a steady demand. Products like these need to be produced quickly and consistently. It wouldn’t make sense to produce batches of these products if the demand if reliable.

Process Method

The process method is more or less what most people picture when they think about production—an assembly line. With the process method there will generally be different types of machinery completing separate tasks to put together the end product. These machines are considered resources as much as the parts they are putting together.

Mass Production Method

The mass production method is primarily focused on creating a continuous flow of identical products. When uniformity is just as critical as efficiency, you need to use “standardized processes” to guarantee all products look exactly the same.

Who Should be Involved in Production Planning?

Many large manufacturing operations hire a dedicated production planning manager. For smaller operations, this may not be practical. Regardless, the person or persons in charge of production planning should have general project planning knowledge and be comfortable with project planning tools.

kanban board for manufacturing project
Kanban boards can be a big help in the production planning process

The person responsible for production planning must also be very familiar with the operation’s inner-workings, resources and the products/services they produce. This usually entails collaborating with people on the floor, in the field or in different departments to create products and deliver services.

The 5 Steps to Create a Production Plan

When you set out to create a production plan, make sure to follow these 5 steps to make it as robust as possible.

1. Estimate/Forecast Product Demand

Understanding product demand is the best way to decide which product planning method is the best choice for your operation. From here, you’ll be able to estimate which resources are required and how they’ll be used in the production process.

2. Access Inventory

Accessing inventory is about more than simply taking stock: you should make an inventory management plan so that you don’t experience shortages or let things go to waste. For this step, focus on the ways you can use everything in the most efficient way possible.

3. Account for Everyone and Everything

A successful production plan requires you to be familiar with the operation. Note the minimum number of people necessary to create a product or execute a service. You need to also consider what machines and systems are essential for executing your production plan.

4. Monitor Production

As production takes place, monitor how the results compare to the projections. This is something that should continually take place and be documented during production. Monitoring production is especially important to the fifth step in the production planning process.

5. Adjust the Plan to Make Production More Efficient in the Future

The final step of production planning is to reflect on the information you gained in step four and strategize what can be done to make the plan run more smoothly in the future. Production planning is about manufacturing a product or service, yes, but it should also be a learning experience for creating even better plans for next time.

Common Production Planning Mistakes

As you go through the production planning process, you must stay vigilant of common missteps. Here are three mistakes often made during production planning. Luckily, they can be prevented.

Not Expecting the Unexpected

This means having strategies in place for if things go awry. The goal is to never have to employ them, of course, but it’s better to have them and not need them. Production planning is not complete if it doesn’t anticipate issues and changes. When you plan for them, you’re ready to problem solve if and when they happen.

Getting Stuck Behind the Desk

You should work with intelligent software tools, but that doesn’t mean you should only rely on a computer for production planning and not oversee resources and operations in person. When production planning is only done from behind a screen, the end result will not be as informed as it could be. The best production planning is active and collaborative.

Neglecting Equipment

Regardless of the product or service, manufacturing means using tech. In order to get the most from your equipment, you need to take care of it. This means tracking usage and keeping up with regular maintenance. This looks different depending on the industry and product or service, but the principle is the same: continually take care of your equipment before it becomes a problem that will slow down production.

Production Planning Best Practices

No matter what product or service is being manufactured, there are many tried-and-true best practices that set your operation up for success. When creating a production plan, keep these two in mind.

Make Accurate Forecasts

When you don’t properly estimate the demand for your product or service, it is impossible to create a detailed production plan. Demand is never static. You need to consider buying trends from previous years, changes in demographics, changes in resource availability and many other factors. These forecasts are the foundation of skillful production planning.

Know Your Capacity

Capacity planning means knowing the maximum capacity your operation can manage—the absolute most of a product or service it can offer during a period of time. This is the only way to anticipate how much of each resource you will need in order to create X amount of products. When you don’t know the capacity, your production planning is like taking a shot in the dark.

Use ProjectManager.com for Production Planning and Scheduling

As the nature of manufacturing goods and services changes, you need modern tools to plan production and make schedules. ProjectManager.com is an award-winning project management software that offers all the tools you need for excellent production planning and scheduling. With it, you can plan projects, create schedules, manage resources and track changes with one tool.

Plan with Gantt Charts

Manage your product manufacturing across a timeline with our Gantt chart view. With it, you can view your resources (such as raw materials) tracked by cost to make sure you’re never overspending. You can then link any dependent tasks to avoid bottlenecks in your manufacturing.

A screenshot of the Gantt chart in ProjectManager.com with a project plan.

Get a Birds-Eye-View

To keep your production plan on track, you need to have a high-level view so that you can pinpoint setbacks before or as they occur. Our real-time dashboard collects your data and converts it into colorful graphs and charts that give you at-a-glance analytics.

A screenshot of the dashboard in ProjectManager.com which tracks plans and schedules.

Easily Measure and Report Your Progress

Any operation will have stakeholders, and they want to be kept in the loop. ProjectManager.com’s project status reports make it easy to share key data points. They can be generated in a single click, making it simple to generate them before important meetings.

A screenshot of the status report in ProjectManager.com which can be used for monitoring production plans.

Manage every detail of your operation with ProjectManager.com’s powerful cloud-based project management tools. Our suite of tools is trusted by tens of thousands of teams, from NASA to Volvo, to aid them in the planning, scheduling, tracking and reporting on the progress and performance of their production plans. Our software makes lets you get out from behind your desk and make adjustments on the go. Try it for yourself for free for 30 days!

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