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What is Master Scheduling?

By Jeri Sullivan
Updated May 17, 2024
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Master scheduling is the process by which a manufacturing operation is run. The master scheduler is the person or department in a manufacturing plant responsible for scheduling. The master scheduling department may be responsible for all aspects of scheduling such as demand forecasting, the master production schedule or mps, production planning, and inventory planning. In large operations, the master scheduling group is its own department and the other aspects of planning are handled by additional groups or departments.

A master scheduler takes input from the marketing department to determine how many of each particular product the sales team plans to sell in the next month, quarter, or year. The information is then either run through a "what if" scenario tool or loaded directly into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The master scheduling department then produces reports that advise the factory and management what part shortages or capacity issues have resulted from the schedule that was loaded.

When the materials or procurement department reviews the part shortages, it will place any required orders. The procurement team will also begin expediting the components, if needed, so they arrive in time to support the planned build requirements. If the parts cannot be pulled in or scheduled to arrive on time, the master scheduler will move the demand around so the production plan matches when the parts are going to arrive.

During this same time period the production planning group, which may also include the master scheduler, will review any capacity constraints to determine if the products being planned can all be run through the factory in time to meet the customer requirements. If there is a capacity constraint due to equipment, the team will look to the master scheduler for possible solutions such as pulling in the demand to build earlier or working with the capital asset team to get additional equipment. If there is a capacity constraint due to lack of human resources, the master scheduler may also need to pull demand or schedule weekend and overtime work to meet the overall production plan.

Inventory is typically the single highest cost manufacturing companies have, so keeping inventory turnover at a high rate is desirable. As part of the master scheduling duties, the scheduler often works with the asset managers to set the production plan in such a way to maximize how quickly the product flows through the factory. By reducing cycle time, the factory runs leaner and the inventory turns more quickly, which reduces the overall cost of capital and increases the company's profits.

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