What is a production schedule? (With stages and benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 January 2023

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

For professionals who work in manufacturing, production scheduling is important for streamlining their processes. By establishing a production schedule that fits their needs, manufacturing professionals can improve the efficiency of their operations. Learning about production scheduling can help you create and manage production processes that may lead to increased profits and help the company reach its goals. In this article, we explain what production scheduling is and why it's important, compare production planning and production scheduling and explore the stages and benefits of a production schedule.

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What is a production schedule?

Understanding what is a production schedule is an important part of working in manufacturing. A production schedule is a framework for allocating resources, raw materials and procedures to a company's manufacturing processes to make them as efficient as possible. Production scheduling varies based on what the company produces, the resources it has available and its primary objectives, but professionals can develop a schedule for any organisation by planning for each stage of the process. Many companies use specialised software programs to plan and monitor their schedules and make changes as needed to improve performance.

Why is scheduling production important?

Scheduling production is important because it can prevent common issues that can become significant if left unrecognised. Besides making manufacturing processes more structured, schedules also allow companies to monitor their processes, identify inefficiencies and resolve problems before they become larger issues. By maintaining efficient production processes, companies can prevent unfavourable situations such as customer dissatisfaction with long waits for products and employee frustration with slow, difficult procedures. Using a schedule to improve production processes can increase new and return customer purchases, company profit and employee job satisfaction.

Related: MRP vs ERP: overview, similarities and distinctions

Production planning vs. production scheduling

Some people use the terms production planning and production scheduling interchangeably, but they have important differences. Both production planning and production scheduling are processes that help organise business operations. As an element of production scheduling, production planning contributes to the success of production scheduling and helps companies accomplish the overall goals of a business. Together, production planning and production scheduling determine the who, what, when and how of manufacturing.

The difference between the two processes is that production planning determines what the business produces and how much product to make, while production scheduling determines who production involves and when they complete production tasks. For example, production planning observes supply and demand and uses customer orders to determine how many units of a certain product to produce. Production scheduling uses the production plan to decide which employees fill the customer orders and provides a deadline for the tasks to be completed.

Related: Guide: What is strategic planning? (with benefits and steps)

Five stages of production scheduling

Production scheduling typically occurs in five stages, and completing each step before moving to the next allows you to establish an effective schedule. Here are the five stages of production scheduling:

1. Planning

The first stage of production scheduling is planning, which is why many people consider planning and scheduling to be the same concept. While they're different, planning is an essential factor in production scheduling. You can choose between two types of plans, depending on the process scope and objectives. Static planning remains stable over a long period and focuses on meeting a company's long-term goals, often a year or more in the future. Dynamic planning involves creating a schedule that focuses on short-term goals, such as those scheduled for completion within 90 days.

Related: How to create product plans (with steps and best practices)

2. Routing

After deciding which type of production plan fits your processes, you can determine the sequence. Also known as routing, establishing a sequence of events involves planning each step to turn the raw materials into the finished product. Consider this carefully, as your routing plan has an important role in the overall efficiency of your processes. If you plan and manage routing well, you can ensure the manufacturing process is cost-effective. Elements you might consider when determining the sequence of your production process include:

  • type of production

  • manufacturing facility location

  • number and types of employees

  • how many products to make

  • resources and methods to use

Related: What are economies of scope?

3. Scheduling

The scheduling stage involves creating a timeline for each phase of production. You can establish deadlines for different stages of the manufacturing process to determine the effectiveness of the schedule and change it as necessary to promote time management and productivity. To make your schedule as thorough as possible, consider creating multiple types that allow you to evaluate the process from different perspectives. Here are some common types of schedules you can use when scheduling production:

  • Master schedule: The master schedule includes the people and resources required to meet the overall production goal.

  • Manufacturing schedule: The manufacturing schedule plans employee schedules and roles.

  • Daily schedule: The daily schedule includes the production plans for each day.

  • Retail schedule: If you plan to sell products in a retail setting, you can develop a retail schedule for shipping products to the store and placing them on shelves.

Related: Scheduling vs planning: what's the difference?

4. Dispatching

After completing the scheduling stage, you can begin developing a dispatching plan. Dispatching involves allocating all required resources needed to manufacture products. This stage is important because having the right amount of resources can ensure the production process runs smoothly, which can help the company achieve goals on time, meet customer needs and earn revenue. Some resources you might dispatch during production include:

  • employees

  • raw materials

  • equipment

  • protective gear

  • tasks

You can evaluate your dispatching plan regularly to make sure it meets your needs and change it as needed to improve efficiency.

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5. Execution

After completing all other stages, you can begin the execution of your schedule. This is simply the process of putting all your plans into action. Execution is often an ongoing process, as manufacturing professionals conduct market research and monitor the effectiveness of each stage of production scheduling to make sure it's as streamlined as possible. When you make changes to improve processes, you then execute the schedule again. This process may continue regularly or until you establish and execute a schedule that suits the company's needs and goals.

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Benefits of production scheduling

There are many advantages of production scheduling for organisations and professionals. Here are some primary benefits of scheduling your production:

Organisation

Production scheduling identifies which materials a manufacturing project requires and improves the process of allocating the correct resources. This process also helps define timelines for when to complete production tasks and organises production crews. Each stage of production scheduling involves organising a specific aspect of production, and the execution of the schedule helps managers organise the entire manufacturing process.

Related: What is effective organisation? (With definition and models)

Communication

Production scheduling can facilitate communication between team members, managers and customers by making information about job tasks clear and accessible, creating delivery timelines and encouraging feedback to change the process as needed. The schedule enables manufacturers to communicate with suppliers about which raw materials they need, the amount they need and when they expect to receive them. Improving communication is an important benefit of production scheduling because it helps manufacturing teams achieve optimal processes.

Related: A guide to the 7 Cs of communication

Efficiency

Organising a schedule to create, manage and distribute products often enables your production process to run more efficiently. By developing a thorough understanding of each aspect involved in the production of a product, you can prevent many types of manufacturing issues. When issues do occur, you can identify them more easily and resolve them before they become a major concern. When you determine the schedule that works best for your processes, you can pre-establish practices that allow you to create and disburse goods quickly.

Related: Effective vs. efficient: definitions, differences and tips

Resource allocation

Having an effective schedule for production allows you to decide how to use the company's resources. These resources include the materials you use to make products, employee labour required to facilitate the manufacturing process and the company's financial assets. Production scheduling includes instructions on which resources to use, how to use them and how much the process requires, which ensures professionals can avoid a shortage or excess of materials. A shortage of materials can stop production, while an excess of materials can lead to unnecessary waste. Scheduling can help you determine the right amount for the production of each product.

Related: A guide to resource allocation (with steps and tips)

Cost-effectiveness

Planning the details of a company's production schedule and process allows you to make cost-effective decisions about materials, equipment and labour. By managing resources effectively, you can eliminate waste in the production process and save the company money. Considering costs when creating your scheduling plan allows you to use the company budget appropriately and possibly even reduce the cost of production.

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