Job Shop Scheduling Software – What Works? What Doesn’t?

I’m like you.  I invested in job shop scheduling software (we used to own a job shop).  It took more than 6 months to set up.  Then after it was set up, I would spend hours and hours continuallyJob Shop Scheduling Software updating the schedule.  Why does it seem that the moment I print the schedule it’s out of date?  And the software itself doesn’t lead to an improvement, a little time savings but no real improvement.  The ROI we were supposed to get never materialized.

I also tried using free scheduling software including Excel.  I owned it, so it didn’t cost me anything to use, other than time.  It also took a ton of time to set up and to keep up to date.

I even tried drum buffer rope software.

What finally worked for me was a visual, manual scheduling system including a very unique scheduling board.  I explain more below.

Job Shop Scheduling Software – it’s NOT working!

There’s no question that there is an almost unlimited number of job shop scheduling problems and challenges.  And the scheduling modules that are available don’t seem to fully address these problems.

To try and solve these problems and challenges, we tend to add more DETAIL. If what we’re doing now is not working, we just need to work harder.  Right?

We spend more time updating the schedule.  We add more information.  We update more often.  We invest in software or add a module to our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems that provides a way to collect and analyze the data.

But, adding more detail is not the answer.

Here’s an excerpt from a job shop scheduling software article on

Sources concede that job shop scheduling is just too complex for software to do all the work. “There is always going to be a human element to the decision-making effort,” Lechleitner said. “I think any APS (Advanced Planning and Scheduling software), at its best, will probably get you about 80 percent there.”

Liddell agreed. “The software can do 80 percent of the donkey work, which will let the scheduler do 20 percent of the fine-tuning. We’re not trying to create the perfect schedule. We’ve never seen it work.”

“I have not seen any magical formula,” said Richard Henning, president, Henning Industrial Software, Hudson, Ohio. “You need to monitor the skills people have for specific operations, what machines people are assigned to work on. These are all complex relationships. You still need a human being to help you see the big picture.”

And those guys are job shop scheduling software vendors.  But in their defense, software just can NOT take into account all the variability that job shops encounter.  And yes, I know there are some algorithms you can run (and rerun and rerun) that will balance your capacity.  But again, it’s a continual updating of the schedule.

It really doesn’t matter if you’re running finite capacity scheduling, infinite capacity scheduling, forward scheduling, or backward scheduling — it takes constant managing and updating.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t invest in an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package or even an APS package, just realize that if you just do what you’re currently doing a little faster, it’s likely that your productivity will NOT increase, your lead-time will NOT reduce, and your due date performance will NOT get better.  And isn’t that the point?

Job Shop Scheduling Software SOLUTION

Velocity Scheduling System (VSS) is NOT software.  It is a visual, manual scheduling system that will work with your existing ERP or no ERP.  It is designed specifically for high mix low volume custom job shops and machine shops whose constraint can move week to week or even day to day.  Shops that don’t have the same routing for all jobs, are complex and high mix.

VSS is implemented during a 14-week coaching program.  Each shop is different, and the system needs to be customized for your specific shop and challenges — therefore coaching is extremely important and boxed solutions are not used.  Results are realized typically in week 5 but it depends on how fast your team takes action.  (more details and our guarantee below is a shorter summary)

We need a list of your jobs including their due date, internal process time estimates, and outside process times (if any). And don’t worry if your estimates are not accurate.   That’s to be expected in a custom job shop– we don’t need more detail!  We’re using the information to come up with a “priority release order”.  So as long as they are relative to each other, the order is close enough.

By visually managing the jobs that are currently in process and on your visual scheduling board –  Velocity Board, you eliminate the constant re-scheduling.  That makes job shop management much less chaotic.

And the Velocity Board is not like any scheduling board you’ve ever used.  The details of how it works are proprietary, but you get all the specifics in the 14-week coaching program and more importantly we customize it for YOUR unique, complex shop.

A good visual scheduling system will help you to see if you have any issues.  Nothing can hide and nothing can fall through the cracks.  If a problem arises, you see it and can deal with it.  There’s no rescheduling to do.  There’s no one walking around with a schedule in their back pocket — it’s a visual SYSTEM.

Jobs that are not yet in process are on your To Be Released Board in “priority release order” so that you can visually manage your backlog.  One thing we like to view visually on our TBR Board is the status of “full kit” on the jobs waiting for their turn to be released.

Another component of Velocity Scheduling System is what we call “Detailed Planning”.  But detail in this case is much much less.  This is where we come up with priority release order (this where we interface with your Enterprise Resource Planning – ERP software or whatever you use) that we’ve already discussed and then we look to see if there are any issues with that release order.  For example, if we release in that order might we encounter a constraint?  If we release in that order, are we likely to meet our due dates?  We predict when each job will start and when it will be completed. We do NOT try to predict when each job will be on each machine.  That level of detail is very likely to be wrong and cause massive re-scheduling.  A macro view of starting and finishing is much more predictable.

The order we implement is shown in the graphic below.  But before we get to that we need to make sure that you shop is a good fit.  So, I recommend you watch the scheduling webinar which will provide more detail on Velocity Scheduling System.  At the end of that webinar, I’ll Job Shop Scheduling Software SOLUTION - Velocity Scheduling System explain how we can talk to determine if you shop is a good fit and what results are likely.  And if I don’t think it would work in your case or your results would not be big enough — I’ll let you know.

THE key measure in Velocity Scheduling System is productivity.  The goal is to get more done with the SAME resources (the definition of productivity).  And, if you ship more without increasing costs — your lead-times reduce, your due date performance improves, and of course, your increase profits.  All with less chaos and less re-scheduling.


“Dr Lisa” Lang

P.S.  Check out the solution to job shop scheduling software –> How to Get More Jobs Done Faster Webinar!

By Dr Lisa Lang

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