I’ve had the opportunity over the past few weeks to investigate how many companies perform their Master Planning practices, and in the process do a pile of thinking about the Master Scheduling role.
My conclusion is that if your company is running smoothly, you need to stop what you are doing right now and hug your Master Scheduler. If your company isn’t successfully executing your plan, you should look at the tools you’ve given your Master Scheduler because with the traditional tools, asking the Master Scheduler to do an effective job is like asking da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa with a can of spray paint. It isn’t going to be pretty.
If you think about it, the Master Scheduler is the keystone of your business. They have the unenviable job of being the first point of execution in your planning process. The Master Scheduler sets the build schedule for your plant, or perhaps even for your global supply chain. To do this, they need to balance the realities of the supply chain against the randomness of demand (after all, forecasts are…well forecasts. And you know the rule about forecasts – they are always wrong.)
Master Schedulers need to do this while respecting capacity limitations, working the overloads and back-filling the underloads. If that isn’t challenging enough, these constrained resources could be multiple levels away from the point of demand with multiple lead time offsets to consider. Starting to sweat yet? Now think about this; at the same time, the company has firm inventory targets that need to be respected. If your wonderfully leveled master schedule causes you to exceed your inventory targets, it’s back to the drawing board. If you are able to make a schedule that meets all requirements, you no sooner have that schedule ready to go when someone is trying to make it invalid. Scrap, late supplies, demand changes and capacity issues all can force the Master Scheduler to review and possibly adjust their plan.
On top of this, the Master Scheduler has multiple other responsibilities. They can be pulled into new order feasibility discussions with Order Fulfillment, they often are responsible for maintaining planning BOMs and are responsible for setting planning parameters like lead times, demand horizons and lot sizes.