What Is a Production Schedule? (With Importance and Stages)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 30, 2022 | Published August 18, 2021

Updated August 30, 2022

Published August 18, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Most products that a company introduces to consumers are the result of a long, complex process of sourcing, planning and production. It can be helpful for businesses to use production schedules to organize these processes and ensure that products reach the market in a timely and efficient manner. If you or your company want to ensure that your production processes are efficient and effective, it may be helpful to learn more about production schedules.

In this article, we define what a production schedule is, list the six stages of production scheduling, explain the benefits of this process and describe key elements to help you understand how production schedules can improve your company's performance.

What is a production schedule?

A production schedule is an organized plan that businesses use to streamline the process of introducing their products to their consumer market. These schedules include steps like:

  • Supply of raw materials

  • Labor

  • Logistics

  • Costs

  • Production timeframe

Companies often develop production schedules before they begin their manufacturing processes. This is important because it helps companies:

  • Determine the cost of producing a particular product, including production and labor costs

  • Allocate enough financial resources to each stage of production

  • Ensure that a product reaches the consumer market quickly and efficiently

  • Determine how much time they may require to complete production and transport their product to distributors

  • Ensure the production of the correct amount of a resource

Related: What Is Cost of Production?

6 stages of production scheduling

Production schedules help companies organize many complex processes, and implementing them successfully often involves these six steps:

1. Planning

The first stage of creating a production schedule is planning, which is often the most important step. In this stage, production schedulers define a production goal and analyze the necessary resources and budget to achieve it. There are often two types of planning that professionals consider: 

  • Static planning: Static planning assumes that all stages of production adhere to the schedule without changes.

  • Dynamic planning: This type of planning assumes that changes to the schedule are likely to occur before reaching a production goal. 

Before creating your production schedule, consider which type of planning is optimal for your business's processes.

Read more: What Is Production Planning? (And 4 Steps To Use It)

2. Routing

In the second stage of production scheduling, professionals often develop clear steps that outline how their company might transport its finished product to the consumer market. They analyze what the best ways to transition raw materials into a final product. The goal of this step is to discover the most cost-effective path from procurement to production completion.

Related: 6 Types of Manufacturing Processes

3. Scheduling

Scheduling establishes the time frame for the completion of each stage of production. It also clearly states a final deadline for completing the entire project. Scheduling can fall into three types:

  • Master production schedule: A master schedule is a plan for manufacturing a product within a specific time frame. It includes elements such as personnel, budget, routing processes and resources.

  • Manufacturing schedule: This type of schedule is a plan for production that only includes the steps required to turn raw materials into a finished product.

  • Retail operations schedule: These schedules are similar to master production schedules, but concern products designed for retailers instead of direct sale to customers.

Related: 5 Types of Production Planning (With Examples and Tips)

4. Dispatching

Dispatching entails implementing the processes schedulers have prepared. In this stage, production schedulers ensure that all resources are available and ready to begin production. They also issue instructions to personnel involved in production so they understand their distinct roles within the production schedule.

Related: How To Write a Production Planner Resume (Steps and Example)

5. Execution

The final step of the production scheduling process is the realization of the schedule's plans. Schedulers ensure the following:

  • All processes operate efficiently 

  • Production finishes within the established time frame 

Each customer receives their order in a timely and efficient manner.

Related: What Does a Production Planner Do? (Plus Skills and Salary)

6. Maintenance

There may be changes throughout the production process that affect the original schedule and make it necessary for production schedulers to alter the plan. Monitoring and updating the schedule throughout the process can help production managers ensure the plan is continuously up-to-date. As they update the schedule, it's also important to share the new schedule with everyone involved to ensure all team members are aware of the new expectations and plan. 

Related: How To Improve Production Quality Processes (With Benefits)

What are the benefits of a production schedule?

Companies who create production schedules may experience several benefits, including:

  • Decreased costs: Production schedules can lower the costs a manufacturer incurs by identifying the least expensive ways to transition raw materials into finished products. It can also help companies identify the most cost-effective methods for labor and product transport.

  • Fewer shortages: An effective production schedule can ensure a company accounts for the proper amount of material and obtains it efficiently. This can prevent shortages that lead to delayed order fulfillment.

  • Minimized lead times: These schedules can also help a company minimize its lead times, or the time between a customer placing an order and the time in which they receive it.

  • Increased customer satisfaction: Production schedules can also help companies fulfill their customers' orders in a timely manner, which can maintain and increase customer satisfaction.

  • Improve company reputation: Companies with reputations for quick and efficient production and supply may benefit from an improved attitude from customers. 

Related: Effective Ways To Reduce Manufacturing Costs

Elements to consider for production scheduling

It's important for professionals who create production schedules to consider several parts of the manufacturing process before developing their schedules, which may include:

  • Time: A production schedule's primary task is usually to establish a timeline in association with customer expectations.

  • Procurement: This is the process of acquiring project materials. Professionals creating a production schedule often consider procurement, as too many or too few materials can result in cost and efficiency issues.

  • Personnel: An effective production scheduler often ensures that there is sufficient personnel available and that there are an appropriate number of staff members working on each stage of the production process.

  • Machinery: A production schedule generally ensures that necessary machinery is available and that each piece of equipment performs as intended.

  • Expenditure: A production scheduler may also plan for the costs that a project might incur to ensure that funding is available for each part of the manufacturing process and that the company achieves its goals without unnecessary spending.

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