Manufacturing process planning is a critical step in business planning because during this stage, a company’s leaders identify, source and price the parts used in its products. The leaders also determine where and how to manufacture the products and what it will cost the company. Once a manufacturing plan is in place, the company’s leadership team can develop its operating budget and from there develop other specific budget plans.
Manufacturing process planning is also known as production planning. Production planning is used in nearly all industries, from agriculture to the oil and gas industry. There are numerous types of production planning, each of which is best suited to specific business models and industries.
A manufacturing plan, like a business plan, is a comprehensive file that covers all aspects of a product’s assembly. For a print shop that manufactures custom-printed T-shirts and hats, the manufacturing plan should cover all of the following:
- Where to source the blank T-shirts and hats
- The type of ink used to print designs on them, its cost and the processes involved in printing and curing it
- The machinery used to print the designs, such as different models, their costs and their operational processes
- The number of employees needed to operate the printing machinery
- The shipping time from the blank products’ source to the print shop
- How long it takes to deliver a printed product to the customer, from initial design to delivery of the finished product
- The series of steps necessary to create the finished product
When developing a manufacturing plan, the manufacturing process planner finds ways to shorten production time and lower production costs without compromising the finished product’s quality. This could mean buying raw materials in bulk, adding employees to the assembly line to ensure products move through it quicker, or arranging production stations to maximize efficiency between one step and the next.
There are five recognized types of production planning:
- Job method
- Flow method
- Mass production
- Batch method
- Process method
The job method of production planning incorporates concerns about human workers’ labor into the manufacturing plan, like the skill set necessary to build the product and the number of workers needed to assemble products. Typically, the job method of production planning is used for products that don’t require much or any specialized manufacturing equipment.
In contrast, the mass production method is specifically for planning for manufacture using specialized equipment. The process method is also applied to manufacturing plans that involve specialized machinery and require a specific, streamlined assembly sequence.
The flow method and batch method of production planning are somewhat similar. With the flow method, the goal is to reduce labor and material costs by streamlining workflow. With the batch method, assembly stages are broken out into steps, and at each point in production, specialized teams manufacture parts and portions of products.
For a small business, the role of a manufacturing process planner is to identify the most cost-effective way to manufacture a product.
For example, a commercial bakery might need to produce 3,000 doughnuts every day. The manufacturing process planner’s task is to determine what kind of equipment is necessary to produce 3,000 doughnuts according to the brand’s doughnut specs, which production facilities can handle the workload, what it will cost the company to produce 3,000 doughnuts per day and how to ensure the doughnuts are distributed to the bakery’s buyers in a timely manner.
Key skills for a manufacturing process planner include:
- Organizational skills
- Communication skills
- An understanding of logistics principles
- Problem-solving skills