Planning processes versus scheduling processes

The terms planning and scheduling are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to very distinct business processes. In this article, we describe the goals of each process and their differences.

The planning process creates a midterm tactical plan, with the purpose of organizing material and capacity timely for the upcoming demand.

The purpose of the planning process is to identify bottlenecks before they occur and take the appropriate corrective actions (such as increasing capacity, outsourcing production, looking for alternate suppliers, etc.). A good planning process is essential to enhance reactivity, competitiveness, increase profits and improve customer service.

The scheduling process creates a detailed short term execution plan for individual machines, operators, and materials, taking into account all constraints.


GoalsHow to execute the plan?What, how much, when and where to produce and stock?
Key outputsPurchase orders
Distribution orders
Manufacturing orders
Resource task lists
Sales forecast
Purchasing forecast for supplier
Inventory plans
Master production schedule
Rough cut capacity plans
Time HorizonShort term.
Typically 1 to 8 weeks.
Typically 3 to 12 months.
Time granularityUp to secondsWeekly or monthly time buckets
ConstraintsModeled in detail (but can still take some abstraction from the actual execution).
Eg. capacity plan for individual machines.
Eg. continuous capacity model: 1 job at a time on the resource.
Can be modelled at a rough, aggregate level.
Eg. capacity planning by machine groups.
Eg. bucketized capacity model: constraint by quantity/bucket or hours/bucket.


The distinction is however not black and white as there is some overlap between both. For instance, you can purchase some materials from the detailed schedule. But you will need to order materials with a long lead time based on the forecast established in the planning process.

FrePPLe’s functionality covers both processes. In a basic setup, a single frePPLe model is used. In complex multi-factory production environments, we may have multiple models: a tactical model for the overall network planning, and a model per factory for the short-term detailed scheduling.

Test frePPLe now in our live demo environment or try for free

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