Scheduling – A critical element of production success

by | Jan 27, 2020

This is a continuation of a previous article that introduces the Manufacturing Triangle: Cost, Schedule, and Quality, as described by Scott Miller of Dragon Innovation. While the first article focused on strategies to reduce the cost-of-goods-sold, this article dives into the scheduling point of the manufacturing triangle.

I have a lot of respect for the demands of consumer product development and production and as such, have a lot of respect for Scott Miller and Dragon Innovation, an NPI and manufacturing management firm that primarily tackles the consumer electronics industry. With consumer products, Christmas is a primary driver of schedule that has a fixed date. If you miss Christmas you lose a significant portion of your revenue. This was one of the things that Scott learned the hard way with I Robot. Their 1st time through manufacturing took them longer than anticipated (due to having to write their own software language from scratch), with an anticipated launch in September that didn't get out until after Thanksgiving. As a result, (since sales are usually exponential) the later launch caused them to lose long bars of their revenue, and this was devastating as Christmas only happens once a year.

It is always good to have contingency in your system and your schedule because things never go as well as you think they will. It doesn’t actually matter if your factory is in the US, Mexico, or China. The reality is that it is just really difficult to manage factories for anything complex if you don't have feet on the ground. It is important to track your schedule super carefully with many discreet milestones so that you know if you're on track or not and when to take quick corrective actions.

When it comes to manufacturing you're playing with pretty big financial stakes, so planning and close attention to detail is imperative. With many similar frameworks for production schedules, it is most important to keep close tabs on current actions and major milestone dates.

For instance, as a brief overview of the road to production, it is good to keep tabs on some important milestone dates such as:
  • 1st Prototype (The first prototype completion)
  • Picking a factory
  • Project Hand Over (fully handing over the design to your CM)
  • First Shot tooling (when the plastic first comes out of mold)
  • Engineered Prototype 1 (EP1 - when you first combine the assembled printed circuit boards in the plastic)
  • The Final Engineering Pilot (FEP - when you have a saleable product built by a skilled team of engineers in the back room)
  • Production Pilot (PP - when you take your product from the back room onto the production lines and figure out how to set up your floor)
  • And finally, Production Start (PS - when you turn on the big switch and start filling out the container)
There are a lot of steps to bringing a product to production (this is just a high level overview). Although it can be complicated, keeping on your schedule is extremely important!
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