There are two types of schedulers. One is the type of person who enjoys making a schedule, who feeds off the thrill of a challenge. The second is a procrastinator that would rather have hot oil poured over his head than sit down and make a schedule.
Scheduling jobs can be like a chess match. Your first move affects all the other moves you make. Careful attention is needed as you begin planning your scheduling strategy. Why is a good schedule is so important? It helps to maintain efficient and reasonable lead times. Also, it enables you to move your manpower around where it will be most effective.
There are many types of software programs that can help you. A simple calendar format is certainly easy and effective. An Excel work sheet is a good option. Also, one of the advanced scheduling programs that we see being offered these days could be really helpful. No matter what tool you decide to use, keep in mind that no matter how advanced it is, it is only as good as the person operating it. As the saying goes, "Garbage in, garbage out."
So what kind of scheduler are you? Proactive or reactive?
A reactive scheduler starts out with good intentions, but that is where it stops. They don't pay close attention to changes that may occur on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. For example, perhaps an employee has called in sick, someone's vacation time wasn't accounted for, or a job went faster or slower than anticipated. If left unchecked, when the next day rolls in you will have to react to the changes under stress.
Let's say your schedule is ahead of what you planned. If you haven't been paying attention, you may have an employee ready to work on something but you don't have a job for them. Now you have someone standing around as you make a few phone calls or try to find a job they can work on in the shop. That is a waste of man-hours that can't be replaced. Doesn't it make more sense to have all your ducks lined up, as they say?
A proactive scheduler, on the other hand, understands the value of staying ahead of the game. They know that what they put into their schedule is what they will get out, and it is definitely not garbage. They also know that planning not just for the day ahead, but rather weeks out, is not only possible, but also necessary if you want to stay competitive in today's market.
A proactive scheduler is aware of the daily happenings in his or her shop. They know what the shop is doing, for good or for bad. Get out and walk the floor and keep your finger on the pulse of your shop. Also, stay in close contact with your installation crews.
Setting a permanent time for making my schedule works well for me. I work on my schedule around 1 p.m. (I work better if I'm not hungry.) It helps me stay organized and is good for those who rely on my schedule to know when they can get answers to their scheduling questions.
The biggest challenges I face in scheduling are lead times. Customers don't tend to care if you are experiencing problems that slow down their order. They only know the top needs to come fast. The best way to maintain consistency is to have a schedule program or format that allows you to plan not just days but weeks ahead.