It is very straightforward to undertake a simple capacity planning exercise. The objective in capacity planning is to identify how much capacity is available to manufacture the required number of products or deliver the required number of service hours. This is important, for example, when you are seeking to take on additional work and wondering whether you have the capacity (both people and machines) to complete the work on time. The converse of this is determining how much work you expect to have and calculating how many staff may be required.
The basic approach is as follows:
- forecast sales and plan future production levels;
- estimate the amount and type of work that will be required;
- identify who can do this work and how training and recruitment can fill the gaps; and,
- implement the plan and review its success.
Staff planning is linked to the wider strategic planning process. The staffing plan will develop from the long term forecast for the development of sales and the required increase in working capacity that this represents. The various types of work must be identified and quantified. Costs may then be attached, enabling budgets and finance to be planned. Plans will be required for the long term (eg five years), the year ahead (relating to the annual budget), and possibly a month by month plan showing how change may be phased in during the year ahead (coinciding with the cash flow forecast).
Capacity ratios can also be applied to machines - since their availability might be a bigger constraint than staff. If there is a maximum number of hours available - one machine, say, might be available for 132 hours per week and require 12 hours maintenance (assuming 24 hour activity). This is an absolute constraint on the business. Monitoring an overall schedule will help you to quote accurate delivery times and perhaps to spot gaps where you can fit in some extra work or devote more time, for example, to preparing the next promotional leaflet.
If you prepare Gantt charts, it is very easy to add a resource histogram, for example, to show the number of staff required at any part in the process.
A further histogram could be prepared to show the financial resources required as the project progresses.
Estimating future work requirements
In addition to estimates for future levels of output, information is needed about how work is done, who does it and what the options are for making changes.
The first step is to clarify the main job elements and to determine how much work is required to carry them out. Do not make too many assumptions about what people do and how they do it. The staff themselves are more in touch with how things are really done. A minor task may take much longer than you think. Another task may be so boring that it seriously threatens effectiveness and job satisfaction. Whilst a scientific ‘work study’ can be useful (and is covered later), informal discussion and team meetings are a much more diplomatic way to look at how work is done.
Estimating increased workloads
The required level of production can be derived from sales forecasts. These then need to be shown in terms of staffing levels. Clearly, the number of staff required will increase in proportion to the volume of work; eg twice the work (usually) requires twice the staff. It is often helpful to create estimates based on the amount of work required to produce one unit of production (sometimes known as the Workload Method). The work required per unit is split into its constituent parts and each is given a time value. These are then multiplied by the number of units required, giving the total amount of work of each type.
|Type of work
||180 hrs (24 days)
||200 hrs (26.6 days)|
||72 hrs (9.6 days)
||80 hrs (10.6 days)|
||36 hrs (4.8 days)
||40 hrs (5.3 days)|
Relating tasks to individuals
Adjusting individual work roles can become very complicated. Where a large team is working on a variety of projects, changing one factor can have a major impact. You need a simple way to look at who does what, and then at what happens if that changes, and how this will develop over a period of time. Computer spreadsheets may be especially useful here.
One approach is to create a matrix that sets individuals against specific work areas. For example, using an average of 18 working days (allowing for sickness and holiday) per full time employee per month, the table shows how work (in days) is split between staff, for an estimated level of activity per area.
|Type of work
|Sales & Admin
|Edit / Proofing