In manufacturing, finite capacity scheduling is an approach to understanding how much work can be produced in a certain time period, taking limitations on different resources into consideration. The goal of finite capacity scheduling is to ensure that work proceeds at an even and efficient pace throughout the plant. Software applications for determining the best way to schedule work are called 'decision support tools.' Finite scheduling tools contrast with infinite capacity scheduling tools. Infinite scheduling tools, which are simpler, cannot account for limitations on the system that occur in real time.
There is no single acceptable way to carry out finite capacity scheduling but it is possible to categorize different types of finite capacity scheduling tools:
Electronic scheduling board (ESB)
An electronic scheduling board provides a graphical view of all jobs currently in production. If the digital board receives data from the factory floor, it can calculate performance times automatically -- even if the administrator makes changes -- and issue a warning if there's a bottleneck.
Order-based scheduling (OBS)
In order-based scheduling, the scheduler (person or software application) prioritizes which work will be completed first by selecting only the orders that meet the plant's pre-set work in progress (WIP) criteria.
Constraint-based schedulers (CBS)
With constraint-based scheduling tools, the bottlenecks in the line determine the schedule for the rest of the components in the system.
Discrete Event Simulation (DES)
A major strength of discrete event simulation tools is the ability to model random events and predict the domino effect one event would have on the rest of the system.
Genetic algorithms are a fairly new approach to scheduling -- they can be compared to the scienfic theory of natural selection. New schedules (children) are developed by using characteristics -- such as sequences of work -- from previous (parent) schedules.
See also: job scheduling
Dr. Huw Richards provides an overview of finite capacity scheduling and other decision support tools.