Production Planning Extended to Labor Scheduling

There is are a lot of differences between labor scheduling software and production planning systems including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) systems. Here’s a simplistic picture. An ERP system generates orders. In certain manufacturing operations these are run through an APS system which schedules an order sequence including dates and assigned manufacturing resources. Whether you are talking about continuous or discrete manufacturing, both of these systems “schedule” and look forward in time.

However, notice that neither ERP or APS resolves orders into tasks performed by workers over a period of time. Who does the what and when? This is left for the workforce scheduling software to figured out. To understand the bridge between these two worlds lets look at the two different behaviors at work.

ERP and APS are focused on your products and when they will be available for delivery. Given your inventory and non-human resources, this level of planning can be defined by an order sequence and the delivery horizon. Like a control tower, for product planning, the order is go or no go.

In contrast, in the world of workforce scheduling the problem can change on a day-to-day or even hourly basis. Such changes may reorder the crewing generated by the rostering software for the next shift or day and these may or may not impact production’s ability to proceed. Labor scheduling is charged with seeing that the production gets performed by your human capital resources. In fact, the volatility associated with labor scheduling must be managed so that it can be isolated from the production schedule.

Labor scheduling requires that you solve a musical chairs problem. Before the music stops and people go to their jobs, input is required from very different systems from those used by ERP or APS systems.
Production requirements or orders are needed of course. However input is also needed from skills management, training scheduling, absentee and vacation scheduling, even shift and job rotation systems. Not to be overlooked are requests from supervisors or the employees. It is often typical that front-line supervisors will take the roster and make their own last minute adjustments as to who fills open jobs, who goes where or who gets overtime. Juggling these last-minute requirements prior to generating the labor schedule is the musical chairs problem.