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Production Planning

12/4/2019 • Shawn Patrick

Production planning is an essential part of operating a successful distillery business. Your production plan will dictate how and when you manufacture your products, where you allocate resources, and how much product you create.

Production planning is the roadmap to your distilling process. It will ensure that each stage of your production is carried out successfully, efficiently, and without sacrificing quality, safety, or consistency.

Product Flows

Developing a product flow means planning the path of the manufacturing process and the sequence of all production steps. It's basically a recipe map for your batches. Depending on the size and amount of products produced, developing product flows is relatively easy for distilleries because each distilling process has a certain order of steps.
 
That said, there may be some critical components of developing your product flows that go beyond the basics. You may create your spirits from semi-finished goods or do several steps in the same container instead of transferring it to multiple pieces of equipment. Each step in your process can be mapped out then used to create batches that are scalable and repeatable.

Scheduling

The scheduling phase of production planning is where you establish a timetable for each step in the process. Many product managers create a master schedule, an operation schedule, and a daily schedule. This helps keep daily duties organized without losing sight of the overarching timetable.

To manage your staff and equipment through batch processing, you should consider using a Gantt chart to manage processing times. Depending on the software you're using to manage your manufacturing process, each step of your product flow will have a time attached to it. Your Gantt chart visually shows each batch flow you're doing and how long is left. This allows you to know what equipment will be free for future batches as you work through the process. 

Dispatching

Dispatching allows you to test if your product flows and schedules are viable. This step is all about gathering data and discovering pain points in the process you've built that can hurt productivity.
 
Keep detailed records of how production is being carried out when each stage is occurring and then compare those notes to your schedule and flows. Do they match or are there deviations?

Adjusting

Production planning is not a one-time project, but rather an ongoing process. Efficiency and productivity are influenced by so many different dynamic factors, which means that your production plan is going to require constant revisions.
 
You should always be reviewing data gathered in the dispatch phase and looking for ways to improve your production planning to yield better results. As you produce batches using your product flows, you may find steps that need to be added on the fly or perhaps one process ends up taking longer than expected on a regular basis. Keep an eye out for frequent deviations and consider adjusting your product flow and planning methods.

The Tech Advantage

There are innovative software tools that make the production planning process easier. OnBatch is one example of a distillery production planning management tool that provides a deeper understanding of your production process.

There are product flow creation tools that allow you to plan out your recipe processes from materials to packaging before you even begin manufacturing. Once you begin creating batches from your product flows you can easily make modifications, like adding steps on the fly. You can also view all of your batches in a Gantt chart to easily view the length of time your processes will take and when your equipment will be available for use in the next batch.
 

When you consider how significant the production planning step is for a distillery business, it’s clear to see why so many companies are investing in software solutions to aid in this process. Trying to manage all of these steps in spreadsheets requires labor hours and a separate processes to managing all of those production notes. The key is to find ways to dissect those streams of data and find ways to improve productivity.