Infinite or Finite Scheduling?

As an ERP Consultant, I’m often asked which the best scheduling methodology is: Infinite or Finite. Typically, my first inclination is almost always Finite Scheduling.  After all, this type of scheduling provides the most balance and order to the universe.

In the Finite Scheduling world there’s no surprises.  You take the time to key in things like Lead Time, Safety Stock, Resources, Work Centers, etc. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to maintain a Finite Scheduling system.  It tedious because you’re reviewing the same data week after week looking for the exceptions.  If an order is going to be late 4 months from now, this gives you time to communicate with the Customer to let them know.  Very rarely do you use this time to try to rearrange resources to meet the original date:  the die has been cast…the formula doesn’t lie…the order WILL be late, and the customer has plenty of time to find another vendor if they don’t like it. 

However, I’ve come to realize that Infinite Scheduling does have its place and can be extremely useful if everyone understands the concept.  It’s typically for custom manufacturers where a handful of Customers make up a large percentage of Sales.  Your most important customer wants something in 2 weeks?  You make it happen.  Oftentimes by running fast and loose. The math surrounding lead times, due dates and resources are fuzzy at best, because the Supply Chain people are swamped with changing dates and priorities.  Every day is a different crisis.  Overtime for the weekend is decided on Friday afternoon.  In short, it’s messy. The priority is to keep the customer happy; everything else is negotiable.

On the plus side, the profits are great.  Customers love you because you get results.  You’re dynamic and have a team in place that can adapt to changing conditions; in fact, they thrive on it. You’ve learned how to deal with stress and have come to realize that not everything is an emergency…it’s just another Tuesday.  Infinite Scheduling does have its place.  I know I used the word “messy” earlier, but the correct phrase is “secondary factors” and it’s a completely viable and justifiable way to do business. 

So in the end, as with most things in life: it depends.