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Production Scheduling

Dispatch Lists

Production Scheduling is the process of generating “to-do” lists or dispatch lists for the shop floor. As part of a larger planning and scheduling process, production scheduling is essential for the proper functioning of a manufacturing enterprise.

Typically, staff generate dispatch lists for key production resources, such as machines, tooling, or labor. The lists consist of operations sorted in start date order. Sometimes, schedules show start and finish times, calculated based on estimated set up and run times for operations and the available time of the resource. The goal of the process is for the shop floor to operate in the most efficient manner possible, while still satisfying customer requirements.


Production scheduling can be a time consuming, tedious task. As work is completed, as new orders are introduced, and as other changes (e.g. machine breakdowns) occur, the schedule needs to be modified and / or regenerated. Prior to the computer age, staff scheduled by hand using pad and paper, or with magnetic wall boards. With the advent of computers, practitioners at one point believed that MRP systems would eliminate the need for production scheduling. Operations staff soon realized that the Master Production Scheduling and Capacity Planning paradigms did little to help schedule the shop floor.

This scheduling process continued to be performed manually until the advent of readily available personal computers. PCs allowed schedulers to make use of software such as spreadsheets (i.e. Excel) to essentially automate manual scheduling. While spreadsheets sped up the process, they did little to change the fundamental approach.

Improved Modeling = Improved Scheduling

By their very nature, spreadsheet approaches are limited in their modeling capability. Without robust modeling, scheduling software loses its ability to accurately predict when operations will finish. Modern, commercially available Finite Capacity Scheduling software and Advanced Planning and Scheduling software give you the ability to create detailed models of capacity. When capacity is accurately modeled, schedules that accurately predict operation start and finish times over any time continuum can be easily generated.

Modern Production Scheduling software helps you:

  • Rapidly generate detailed dispatch lists for machines, labor, tooling and other constraints
  • Balance tradeoffs between customer service and shop floor efficiency
  • Quickly reschedule to reflect customer changes such as new orders and revised priorities, as well as shop floor issues such as machine down time, absenteeism and other production delays.
  • Test what-if ideas such as overtime and outsourcing, and pick the best alternatives
  • Make customer promises that you can keep
  • Cut costs and inventory, improve customer service, and shorten lead times
  • Re-schedule in minutes