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Plans are Worthless, but Planning is Everything: A Lesson in Production Planning

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Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said (link), "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." This statement may sound paradoxical at first, but it carries an essential message about the importance of the planning process.

 

He goes on to say that you cannot plan for an emergency because it will always be unpredictable. “The first thing to do is to take all the plans off the top shelf and throw them out the window. But if you haven’t been planning, you can’t start to work, intelligently at least.” 

 

Eisenhower's point was that, while plans can quickly become irrelevant due to unforeseen circumstances, the process of planning is exactly what prepares you for dealing with those unexpected events.

 

 

Not a plan, but the process of planning is what prepares you for the unexpected.

 

 

This principle applies to various aspects of life, including production planning. In manufacturing, there are numerous unpredictable events that can throw off even the most well-crafted plan. Raw materials may not be delivered on time, production may take longer than expected, batches may be produced with poor quality, critical machines may break down unexpectedly, operators may fall ill, and rush orders may come in, among other things. All these unexpected situations can throw a wrench on the production plan. Uncertainty cannot be avoided, but the planning process can make you more capable of handling it.

 

Managing uncertainty with agility will help you succeed in production planning. What is the backup plan if a production line goes down? What effect would using a different BOM have if some raw materials were unavailable? How can I fit in rush orders that need to be completed by today?

 

It is true that the first step is to abandon the plan. Exploring different options will help you to react to unforeseen situations swiftly and effectively, reducing downtime and minimizing the impact on your production schedule.

 

Additionally, the planning process allows you to spot potential bottlenecks and inefficiencies in the production process. By analyzing the workflow and identifying areas that may cause delays, you can proactively address them and optimize the production process. This approach can help you achieve greater efficiency and productivity, even in the face of unexpected events.

 

 

Every planner knows that a plan is outdated from the moment it is pushed to the production floor.

 

 

Eisenhower's quote about the value of planning is a highly relevant lesson for production planners. Every planner knows that a plan is outdated from the moment it is pushed to the production floor. No matter how well you plan, there will always be unexpected events that can throw off your schedule.

 

The key is to approach these events with flexibility and a willingness to adapt your plan. With a continuous planning process in place and the ability to simulate different scenario's, you can speed up your decision-making process and keep your production on track.

 

To sum it up, as Mike Tyson once said in somewhat different words, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Adapt your plan or you will get punched again.

 

Thomas Meersseman
by Thomas Meersseman
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