Win Business with the Right Scheduling Tool

Why the right scheduling tool is the key to competing and winning

By: Mike Liddell, CEO of Lean Scheduling International and Author of “The Little Blue Book On Scheduling”

Scheduling is the process of balancing demand for products with available resources for the purpose of creating a valid action plan.

Demand includes customer orders, stock replenishment orders and samples, while Resources includes machines, operators, tooling, inventories of raw materials, sub parts, purchase orders and finished goods.

This article clearly explains the importance of Scheduling which is sometimes called finite scheduling or Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) and how it can be used as a competitive advantage as the world looks to faster response times.

The Premise:

The underlying premise is that, just like the human body, decisions can only be made in one place. The brain center for a manufacturing company is the scheduling system where manufacturing decisions are made. In order to make good decisions, scheduling systems must have all the data and all the logic required to calculate cause and effect. This is what allows the scheduler to clearly see the potential impact of specific changes or decisions.

In order to be useful, the schedule must be accurate, and this is not possible unless the scheduling tool can model real world constraints of each unique plant. If the schedule makes no sense then it will be ignored, discarded and overridden. Once people start making manual decisions in a vacuum there is no way to understand what we call “the unintended consequences” such as the impact on commitments to other major clients. It´s not that the schedule should never be overridden but if it is, it should be done with a full understanding of the overall consequences.

The Solution:

Because the scheduling process is the fundamental mechanism that must be used to respond systematically, quickly and intelligently to change, it is essential that companies make the right decision about selecting the scheduling tool that will help them most and how it should be implemented. There is just too much at stake to make the wrong decision.

Important Scheduling Tool Functionality:

An effective scheduling tool should have the following built-in functionality:

  1. Schedule accurately based on real world constraints
  2. Easily integrate data from other systems like ERP and the shop floor (MES)
  3. Schedule quickly (seconds or minutes)
  4. Precisely synchronize multiple constraints (such as capacity and raw materials)
  5. Predict potential problems before they happen based on cause and effect logic
  6. Quickly review and compare all the consequences of multiple scenarios before deciding
  7. Make sure that all the latest data is available
  8. Create and communicate the new and valid action plan to all those who need to know
  9. Provide a good selection of standard rules
  10. Allow the easy creation of custom rules

One way to think about scheduling is to ask the question, “What should I make next?” This is a critical question because every minute a manufacturer spends making the wrong stuff not only increases costs, it reduces the time needed to make the right stuff.

As I have explained in my book, The Little Blue Book on Scheduling, planning systems should also have a major impact on how a company answers the above question. Planning guides you to make decisions based on what products you should be making while scheduling helps you decide how to prioritize what you should be making.


Without a coherent scheduling system, companies can easily start down a spiraling path towards self-destruction. Growing levels of change put too much pressure on old systems that were not designed for the realities of today´s world. When these systems break down, they start to cause confusion. This leads to panic and further bad decisions by managers and executives. Eventually mass confusion causes low productivity, poor customer service and eventually the loss of key customers. All of this can be avoided by implementing an APS system and turning a disaster into a competitive edge.   

You can find more about this topic and others in Mike Liddell´s book “The Little Blue Book on Scheduling”. Or contact Mike at [email protected].

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