Human Performance in Planning and Scheduling

By Bart MacCarthy; John Wilson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE

Making Sense of Scheduling: The Realities of Scheduling Practice in an Engineering Firm

Sarah Crawford


5.1

INTRODUCTION

Scheduling occurs in many environments; the focus of this case study is scheduling in manufacturing industry. A general description of scheduling is the allocation of resources over time to perform a collection of tasks (Baker, 1974). This 'classical' approach to scheduling problems has been formalised into the underlying framework referred to as scheduling theory. Scheduling in practice, however, varies greatly between different companies with no definitive model of 'real world' scheduling available to aid manufacturing industry. Overlooking the realities of scheduling has resulted in many industries being far from successful in their development of planning and scheduling systems, or in their understanding of the role of the human scheduler within these systems. Instead, businesses have exploited the increasing trend for IT solutions to automate planning and scheduling decision- making processes. However, these systems approach production scheduling as a well defined mathematical problem in contrast to the reality of people carrying out scheduling as a dynamic process. The business' simple, implicit assumption is that the human scheduler will 'solve' most of the problems that arise.

The majority of previous scheduling research has ignored the presence of the large numbers of people in manufacturing organisations that are involved with, or can impact upon, scheduling decisions. Human decision-making is not usually considered in the development and implementation of planning and scheduling systems. Therefore, there is a need to understand the role of the human scheduler and the nature of scheduling practice as a basis for developing more effective systems. This case study was conducted as part of an EPSRC funded prqject 1 whose aim is to study and capture the reality of planning and scheduling across manufacturing sectors and to explain what actually happens in 'real world' practices. The study looks at the nature of scheduling in an engineering firm, specifically investigating how a scheduler works and how the scheduler's performance is measured.

The case study covers three main areas. Firstly, there is an overview of the firm where the fieldwork took place and an introduction to 'John', the participant

1 Effective decision support for production planning and scheduling: a new approach combining scheduling theory and human factors (GR/L/31364).

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