A manufacturing shop floor is one of the busiest places with complex operations running all around you in tandem. Materials are coming in and taken to warehouses and the factory floor, machines are running at full capacity and personnel are moving around all the time working on their jobs, and moving finished goods for dispatch.

Countless processes are operating simultaneously all because of a vital cog that is holding the wheel together – Scheduling. Without accurate scheduling, the entire manufacturing process would go haywire. 

What is Scheduling?

Job scheduling is the process of arranging, queuing and managing jobs on the shop floor such that they meet customer’s delivery timelines at optimum costs, manpower and materials. 

Scheduling Challenges in Manufacturing

Scheduling is one of the most complex and time, resource and energy-intensive processes owing to multiple variables that impact it. These variables are incoming sales and work orders, current inventory levels, customer due dates, labour, tools and machine availability, work in progress and backlog orders. 

Some common challenges that manufacturers face in scheduling are, 

Varied Job Nature – The varied nature of jobs (customized jobs) comes with its complexities, priorities, resource requirements and manufacturing time thereby making job scheduling a complex process.

Machine Setup Time – Job schedulers have to consider machine and tooling setup time to arrive at accurate scheduling. Different job types make it even harder to schedule.

Resource Availability Constraints – Availability of inventory, tools, parts, machine up-time and labour become critical when scheduling a job. Any missing piece derails scheduling, and delays production and timely delivery.

Ever-changing Customer Demand – Customer demands concerning the product or the delivery timeline keep changing leading to modifications in scheduling and priority. 

Batching and Sequencing – Optimizing production by batching similar jobs has its challenges while reducing idle time, delays, transportation costs and improving delivery timelines to customers. 

Shop Floor Disruptions – Shop floor disruptions in the form of machine breakdowns, inventory shortages, lack of labour availability etc. impact production and derail a well-laid schedule. 

Real-time Communications – Lack of real-time communications between departments (inventory, production, maintenance) leads to delays in scheduling and production. 

Manual Operating Methods – Scheduling becomes tough and challenging when the manufacturer uses manual and silo-based systems to operate daily. Spreadsheets and paper-based methods lead to missing information, miscommunication and delays.

How does ERP-enabled automation help manufacturers schedule efficiently?

An ERP software with advanced technological features enables manufacturers to track shop floor operations in real-time and schedule efficiently. 

Real-time tracking of shop floor operations

An ERP’s centralized database allows manufacturers to easily record, store and access planning and operational data across all manufacturing stages. With real-time shop-floor data tracking, they can keep track of jobs that are work-in-progress, in-queue, and completed. They can also track incoming goods, inventory movement, labour clock-in & clock-out, and machine status to plan and schedule jobs more efficiently.

Resource visibility

With real-time visibility of job queues, machine work centres, labor and material availability, manufacturers can automatically arrive at accurate schedules with an ERP. They can adjust work centre and labor allocation in case of an under or over-utilization of resources. 

Any changes owing to modified customer demand, due dates, inventory fluctuations, or machine breakdowns can also be easily accommodated. 

Job prioritization and re-scheduling

Customer demands keep changing and so do the order due dates. Some orders become hot orders and have to be prioritized over other jobs while some get pushed further. Personnel can simulate how re-scheduling of a particular job impacts other jobs and due dates. It also displays the impact of re-scheduling on existing capacities such as workcenters, labor schedules and material availability. 

Timely customer delivery

When the sales team promises a particular due date to a customer, it becomes the responsibility of the shop floor team to meet it at any cost. With visibility of existing orders, job queues, inventory levels and resource availability, the sales team can commit realistic due dates to customers based on facts, thereby reducing the burden on the shop floor. 

More time in hand

In the absence of an ERP, scheduling managers are in a constant state of fire-fighting mode, where they spend an insane amount of time adjusting the schedules based on guesswork and siloed data sources. 

An ERP frees up their time to respond to other critical tasks such as repair and maintenance of tools and machines, unexpected breakdowns and reduced downtime, and other issues that impact job schedules.


With ERP software and its vast manufacturing capabilities, manufacturers can automate entire scheduling and reduce unnecessary stress. It allows them to improve order-to-delivery cycle times, reduce overhead costs and emergency material procurement, and improve overall productivity and customer satisfaction. 

Managers can make informed decisions based on factual data that they see in real time. From the shop floor to the top floor everyone is well-informed on what is happening in the enterprise enabling them to operate better and efficiently. Efficient scheduling leads to leaner operations and a profitable enterprise.

In a nutshell, scheduling requires managers to consider the entire spectrum of planning and operations to arrive at a perfect schedule that keeps everyone from shop floor to the top floor to the customers happy. 

Therefore, scheduling is not just a process, it’s an Art!