Production planners... please tell me what you do?
May 22, 2014 6:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to decide whether or not to interview for a production planner position that my friend informed me of (for an automobile/electric plant). My friend told me that I would be a great fit and there are a few areas that interest me, but looking at the description... for the most part, it doesn't seem like anything I would imagine myself normally doing for a job. The position seems to center around working with data, and I'm definitely not the number-crunching type. The problem is... I don't have a great job at the moment and am a little desperate. What does working as a production planner entail? What kind of skills would you say are necessary for this kind of job?
posted by Thanquol180 to Work & Money (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There is a lot of data, but not a ton of number crunching. Once you get to know your product it really becomes almost second nature. Excel skills are massively helpful, as is whatever MRP system (ie SAP) they use. Microsoft Office in general.

A planner is the middleman between the shop floor and sales. Sales calls in with a request, planner sees if there are materials, machines, and people to get it done in time, then makes it happen by working with the shop floor supervisor and employees to make sure they know what they are supposed to be working on; what's important, what's not.

There are a lot (LOT) of tasks that are done every. single. day, such as looking at incoming orders, looking at the current production load vs capacity, checking in with the line to make sure things are going smoothly out there, etc.

Some planners do some buying too. There's also inventory management - doing the transactions to make sure the consumables get issued to the production orders, etc.

There can be a lot of glory with the job, but you are also the bearer of any bad news back to sales, which often has unpleasant reactions from them, so you have to have good soft skills and a really thick skin.

I kinda fell into the job, but I really really like it, and was really excited to see this question! Let me know if you have more specific questions...
posted by Fig at 8:28 PM on May 22, 2014

I did production for a small company and really enjoyed it. I didn't use Excel much in that role. I did use an MRP hand-cobbled from a database software. It was not difficult to learn at all. Because it was a small company, I also did purchasing and inventory management.

The challenge is in juggling various timelines, and there are times when there's nothing you can do to expedite a needed part. Good sales projections help, if you have them. It was a fine balance at my company, and Fig is right that you do sometimes have to communicate delays to sales/customers. I never had anybody react very badly towards me, happily; just had general expressions of unhappiness about the situation.

This was all ages ago, so my memory is pretty spotty. Hope that little bit of info helps.
posted by moira at 10:15 PM on May 22, 2014

I've never been a production planner, but my first job after college was to finish the development of a production planning system for a factory. The basic idea was you had a bunch of different "stations" in the factory that could do different tasks, and each product they made required a different amount of work by each station. So the goal was to balance the mix of products being sold, and the schedule for their production, to ensure all stations in the factory stay optimally busy (neither overloaded nor sitting idle).

Because of the long lead time of these particular products, you also had to know not only what was already in production, but what was committed to customers (confirmed sales), what had been quoted on but not bought yet (quoted load), approximate percentage of quotes that would turn into sales and when. And then display the resulting load on a graph for each station.

The final output of all this was a couple of things: scheduling decisions in order to resolve overloaded stations, and direction to sales staff as to which products to try to push harder and which to back off on, to balance the workload mix.

The company I worked for was hired to automate this, because previously it was all being done manually in spreadsheets. So I assume the nature of production planning work will vary depending on how sophisticated the systems support is at a given company, e.g. you could end up having to model all this manuallly, or just plug in some data and read some reports to make decisions from.
posted by FishBike at 5:23 AM on May 23, 2014

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