Crashing the plan – Those urgent jobs that simply must be done. But at what cost?

The print industry is frequently under pressure to produce to the tightest of deadlines, but what is the impact?

For some companies,  this type of rushed work is bread and butter which means that their processes are aligned to cope, however, for others, the consequences can be significant. The lovingly prepared production plan is not just a set of operations, but allows a streamlined, efficient (and crucially profitable) workflow without the inaccuracies and errors introduced by rush jobs.

Efficiencies such as grouping production of similar jobs with commonalities such as material, size, colours and tooling and finish allow printers to minimise unproductive time and maximise output.

But what happens when we throw a rush-job spanner in the works?

 

The knock-on effect of crashing the plan

Usually the impact results in a longer make-ready for both the rush-job and the following job in the production schedule but there may well be other implications. Extra wash-ups or machine tear-downs are likely to be incurred, and subsequent conversion and finishing production plans will also be affected. The knock-on effect could well be that slipping that single urgent job into the schedule impacts the profitability of several other jobs, and could also impact customer satisfaction if it causes other orders to be late.

How can these issues be handled or mitigated?

1)     Pricing

Rush jobs may be priced differently, allowing recovery of likely lost efficiency for other work. If they are estimated and priced at standard rates but are always a rush, the profitability is likely to be greatly reduced and the knock-on effect is inefficiency in the other planned production.

 

2)     Fix the plan

Fixing the production plan for a defined period is easy, sticking to it is harder. There is a delicate balancing act between running efficiently and satisfying customers. It may be possible to manage expectations by using customer agreements to allow for the shortest turnaround that fits with your planning horizon.

 

3)     Plan for the inevitable

If the scenario occurs frequently, you may decide to plan a placeholder for rush work, allowing some breathing room to accommodate these jobs in the knowledge that if they don’t arrive then the production schedule can be pulled forward slightly.

 

4)     Model

Modelling the Production Plan to see the impact on other customers’ work allows for early contact with customers likely to be adversely affected by a change to the Production Plan. An early “heads-up” phone call – while unlikely to be welcome – is sure to be appreciated more than a late delivery without prior notice.

 

5)     Analyse

Reporting on historic performance for repeat offenders will bring to light the validity of this type of work. We know that there will be occasions when a ‘good’ customer needs a helping hand, but it’s vital to know how often it happens and the impact on profitability for the customer’s work. If the only orders a customer ever gives you cause problems and steal profit from other work, should they still be a customer?

How can technology help?

Microsoft Dynamics NAV/PrintVis can assist with addressing these issues by empowering the users to analyse estimated versus actual cost performance by Job, Product, Customer or any combination of these and other dimensions, to ensure visibility of issues.

Special pricing scales can be configured to recoup the higher expected costs of rush work such as extra job changeover time, overtime or higher manning requirement.

Planning features allow for bottlenecks to be prioritised with other production dependencies automatically re-planned in the case of an impact on these.

Furthermore, integration with visual planning tools allows for a graphical representation of the production schedule throughout all departments, with a ‘what if?’ planning capability highlighting predicted late deliveries at a glance.

 

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