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With all the talk of advanced manufacturing techniques, there is a risk that we forget about the basics, which is the foundation upon which manufacturing excellence is built. The purpose of this talk is to discuss a perspec­tive about one of those basic practices that helps a manu­facturing company convert plans to actions—the Master Production Schedule (MPS).


Our knowledge of how to properly manage the MPS function has gone through a significant evolution of change and improvement. In the beginning (1960s), when MRP (Material Requirements Planning) was a new subject as part of the development of today's demand-driven global economy, we did not give much thought to the proper use of a "master schedule" to truly sched­ule, and more importantly, reschedule. The market "fore­cast" was simply exploded through bills of material, creating factory and supplier schedules at whatever lev­els the market demanded, regardless of the company's capability.

We then began to recognize that in order to manage within the short-term constraints of our factories and our suppliers (capacity), we could not simply assume "infinite capability." Additionally, we began to recog­nize the need to reschedule as things indeed changed in the marketplace, in the factory, and with suppliers. To not change the MPS would invalidate all priorities, de­grading the integrity of the entire system.

All this gave rise to a defined and disciplined Master Production Scheduling process, whose overall objective was to bring balance to supply and demand. The MPS became the center of the planning system—creating rough-cut balance between our finite capability and the needs of the marketplace. It then drove the detail of material and capacity planning. We then began extend­ing the MPS horizon beyond the Critical Time Fence (CTF) so that we could see detailed resource needs in a timeframe that would enable appropriate decisions about acquiring capacities to satisfy customer's needs.

The computer and its ability to store and display large amounts of data made it possible to "manage" this pro­cess far into the future, and we did just that—often to a full year. Software suppliers began to develop ways to automate and make this extended practice more effi­cient. This got us into such detail that we sometimes got lost in the woods, not seeing the big picture. It also became an administrative burden to maintain it.


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