Production Planning in Discrete Manufacturing

Author: Paul Henriques in: Planning

June 16, 2023

Production Planning in Discrete Manufacturing

The flexibility and customization required by discrete manufacturing to meet the needs on your customers can be a headache to plan. The constant monitoring of stock levels and variability of product cycles can make a planning department feel like any new purchase order is a workout.

In other words, planning your production line is a complex process that involves many decisions and trade-offs with the goal of finding the optimal way to produce your product line for your customer due date with a finite set of resources.

Challenges to Production Planning

Production planning is all about balancing the supplies you have on-hand with the current and forecast demand from your customers. This balancing act becomes more complex for discrete manufacturing due to the batch sized orders that are received. With your demand variation being greater for certain products based on any number of factors (like seasonality, or market trends), you will also need to keep a close eye on the changes to your supply (like vendor issues, labor shortages, or production capacity). Some of the challenges that your planners may face include:

  • Balancing efficiency and responsiveness – As you know, producing more of the same thing on long runs lowers the costs per item. However, with discrete manufacturing, large orders like this will severely cut your adaptability and competitiveness, leading to decreased sales, customer satisfaction, and profits.
  • Managing variability – Because of the variability in the product line, it can be difficult to build a forecast you can trust. And with multiple suppliers and components, you can find yourself with a higher chance of unexpected delays, disruptions, or quality issues.
  • Optimizing assets – Discrete manufacturing requires a lot of assets that need to be used as efficiently as possible to help you remain competitive. Your planning team will need to maximize your usage while minimizing wastes to ensure you can improve competitiveness and meet your customer needs.

Solving Planning Issues

While planning can seem a problematic area of the discrete manufacturing process, the truth is that decades of practice have created many systems and tools to improve planning productivity. Some of the systems and tools used include:

  • Lean – Lean is a manufacturing methodology that aims to eliminate waste and improve value for customers by focusing on the flow of value-added activities. In production planning, Lean helps you reduce inventory levels, shorten lead times, improve quality, and increase flexibility.
  • Mixed-model production – Some shops have found success by producing different types of products on the same production line with mixed-model production. This has helped them increase product variety, reduce setup times, balance workloads, and quickly respond to changes in demand.
  • Agile – Keeping your decision and manufacturing quick and agile allows you to respond quickly and effectively to changes in the market by focusing on flexibility, adaptability, collaboration, and innovation.
  • APS – Some of the tools used to improve production planning include advanced planning and scheduling (APS) software applications, which combine the traditional planning tools, like MRP, DCP, and RCCP into one. By integrating the many planning and scheduling tools into one system, often incorporated into an ERPII system, your production planning team will see improved results with integrated data from multiple sources. The ERPII then grants them the ability to simulate different scenarios, evaluate trade-offs, and generate optimal production plans and schedules.


Production planning in discrete manufacturing is a complex and dynamic process that requires a lot of coordination and collaboration to work. While it is an ongoing process that requires constant oversight, with the appropriate methods and tools, your planning team can see an improvement to their performance that improves your quality, timeliness, and customer satisfaction for a lower overall cost. All these benefits will in turn increase your competitiveness and profit.

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