This might be my last post on the particular subject.  I had a discussion the other day with an executive at a flexible packaging  / label firm.  The discussion reminded me of the fact that some industries can’t just add labor and more hours when trying to improve on-time delivery (OTD).  Industries that rely on labor for assembly / manufacturing can put in overtime to get back on schedule.  Some industries, though, that rely more on machinery and the capacity of that machinery find it harder to stay on schedule and especially get back on schedule.  Since I started off with a comment on the label company, let me expand.  In a printing or label industry you have to keep your presses running.  Changing over jobs on presses can take anywhere from 3-6 hours if not more depending on the complexity of the job.  In my experience it is particularly challenging to stay on track with the promises you have made customers.

The best way to stay on schedule is to stay on schedule.  What I mean by that, is that your operations team, especially your planners have to OWN the schedule.  You cannot let sales own the schedule.  Salespeople are typically concerned with what their customers want and may not be very concerned with the overall health (OTD) of the system and how the business is performing for other customers.  Customers always have unplanned needs.  That is the way the world works.  My view is that a business should do their best to assist with the unplanned needs of their customers.  Having flexibility (some excess capacity) in your system is key to responding to emergency needs.  But sometimes the emergency requests become normal and it throws the entire business off schedule.  Sales people should always feel free to call and jockey for improved deliveries or assistance with rush orders.  But, the planners should own the schedule and have final say with input from management.  If you fall into the trap of letting sales dictate your schedule, then your OTD and customer satisfaction will suffer.

Managing the business and rush orders is a delicate balance that is fraught with issues.  That is why management must coalesce around what the goals of the business are and who has what responsibility.  Once again, no knock on sales.  They are a lifeblood of an organization.  But once that job is dropped into the funnel, it is time for operations to do their thing and keep the business on schedule.

Rindge Leaphart

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