Master Production Scheduling (or MPS as it’s often referred to) is a manufacturing planning tool that is used to capture a number of variables from different elements of the organization (customer demand, capacity, inventory levels, material flows, etc) and then describe which parts the organization will manufacture and at what frequency.
MPS is a fairly standard tool within manufacturing companies its usually administered through the operations/planning function and controlled by a team headed by a Master Production Scheduler. It’s typically administered through the MRP system. The MPS process stops the business being led by the “he who shouts loudest gets their parts syndrome” and delivers a manufacturing plan that not only targets meeting the needs of the customer but also the broader capabilities of the manufacturing organization.
Five key benefits of Master Production Scheduling
1/ Can help to smooth the demand signal
Most customer demand signals will contain peaks and troughs of demand – this profile can result in planning problems and inefficiency for manufacturers. A significant benefit of MPS is that since it decouples the customer demand from what is manufactured – batch sizes can be tuned to optimize the production process. Where demand is particularly spiky (ie. Peeks and troughs of demand) this can be of enormous assistance producing a steady drum beat of manufacture (taking advantage of batch sizes and minimal setup times) which can then ripple through the supply chain.
2/ Protects lead time and helps book future deliveries
A common complaint for many organizations is that demand is loaded within lead time – i.e. if a part takes 100 days to manufacture it’s no good taking a customer demand for delivery in 50 days where there is no stock – you are struggling before you’ve even started the manufacturing process. This can create panic amongst the staff – throwing existing priorities into disarray. Whilst there are a variety of methods that can be used to stop this – MPS can be a very effective method as it is the production schedule that drives the manufacturing not the customer demand. This enables the organization to protect its lead time but also assists planning in looking at when future customer requirement is best supported by manufacturing output.
3/ Acts as a single communication tool to the business
A major benefit to any organization that adopts MPS is that it acts as a single communication tool for the business regarding its manufacturing plans. The MPS schedule is typically available via the MRP system however whatever the method it’s imperative that its communicated in an easily understandable form that can be used throughout the organization.
4/ Helps the Supply chain prioritize requirement
Having a fixed schedule enables the supply chain team – in particular the procurement function to communicate priorities and requirements effectively. One of the key problems many manufacturing organizations face where they are led by changing customer requirement is where the supply chain gets reprioritized depending on the “problem of the week”. Its no surprise that suppliers work best to regular smoothed demand – where that demand in unstable it can often lead to missed deliveries (of what was planned) let alone the detrimental affect to relationships with suppliers that struggle to keep up with what’s really required.
5/ Helps stabilize production
Master production schedules are best reviewed as part of a formal business process which includes the relevant stakeholders and often requires senior sign off before it is either loaded into the MRP system or is passed to production for action. It’s common the production schedule to be outputted from a formal SIOP review.
Typically master production schedules do not allow “planning in arrears” so where failures have happened and product has not been manufactured as planned – these items are re-planned to a relevant point in the future.
Another common attribute of a master production schedule is that there is usually a fixed planning window whereby plans do not get changed. For example the first 6 weeks of the plan maybe termed fixed. This enables production to concentrate on what’s ahead of them without worrying about reprioritizations. Additions may be added to this fixed period but usually such amendments are tightly controlled.
Whilst, as with any business process, there are challenges associated with deploying a master production schedule there are some enormous and tangible benefits. Manufacturing plants can get themselves into chaos by not administering the manufacturing demand signal appropriately and this can have huge affects on the supply chain – driving reprioritizations, excess inventory and causing untold grief to the relationships to key suppliers. Used correctly MPS can right many of these problems generating a stable and considered plan to drive the business.