8.5 Operations Planning & Control


Measuring Capacity for Manufacturing

To estimate the number of units that you are likely to sell over a given period, you have to understand the industry that you are in and estimate your likely share of the market by reviewing industry data and conducting other forms of research.

Once you have forecasted the demand for your product, you can calculate the capacity requirements of your production facility—the maximum number of goods that it can produce over a given time under normal working conditions. In turn, having calculated your capacity requirements, you are ready to determine how much investment in plant and equipment you’ll have to make, as well as the number of labour hours required for the plant to produce at capacity and meet demand.

Like forecasting, capacity planning is difficult. Unfortunately, failing to balance capacity and projected demand can be seriously detrimental to your bottom line. If you set capacity too low (and so produce less than you should), you will not be able to meet demand, and you will lose sales and customers. If you set capacity too high (and turn out more units than you should), you will waste resources and inflate operating costs. Therefore, continuous review, the process of routinely reviewing the organization’s processes to determine where improvements can be made to increase organizational efficiency, is very important in the capacity planning process to avoid producing too much or too little.

Measuring Capacity for Services

Estimating capacity needs for a service business is not the same thing as estimating those of a manufacturer. Service providers can not store their products for later use: hairdressers can not “inventory” haircuts, and amusement parks can not “inventory” roller-coaster rides. Service firms have to build sufficient capacity to satisfy customers’ needs on an “as-demanded” basis. Like manufacturers, service providers must consider many variables when estimating demand and capacity:

  • How many customers will I have?
  • When will they want my services (which days of the week, which times of the day)?
  • How long will it take to serve each customer?
  • How will external factors, such as weather or holidays, affect the demand for my services?

Forecasting demand is easier for companies like BK, which has a long history of planning facilities, than for brand-new service businesses. BK can predict sales for a new restaurant by combining its knowledge of customer-service patterns at existing restaurants with information collected about each new location, including the number of cars or people passing the proposed site and the effect of nearby competition.

Material Requirements Planning

A software tool called material requirements planning (MRP) relies on sales forecasts and ordering lead times for materials in order to calculate the quantity of each component part needed for production and then determines when they should be ordered or made. The detailed sales forecast is turned into a master production schedule (MPS), which MRP then expands into a forecast for the needed parts based on the bill of materials for each item in the forecast. A bill of materials is simply a list of the various parts that make up the end product. The role of MRP is to determine the anticipated need for each part based on the sales forecast and to place orders so that everything arrives just in time for production.


A big decision that managers must make early in production and operations planning is where to put the facility, be it a factory or a service office. The facility’s location affects operating and shipping costs and, ultimately, the price of the product or service and the company’s ability to compete. Mistakes made at this stage can be expensive because moving a factory or service facility once production begins is difficult and costly. Firms must weigh a number of factors to make the right decision.

A photograph shows a highway with large signs that signal Spartanburg is on Interstate 26 west, and Charlotte in on Interstate 77.
Figure 8.2 (Credit: Daniel Chou/ Flickr/ Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0))
Facing stiff competition from rival automobile companies and sagging demand among German consumers, Germany’s BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) opened a factory in Spartansburg, South Carolina. Opened in 1994, the U.S. plant recently produced its four millionth vehicle and now employs 9,000 employees in its six million square foot plant. What factors determine where auto companies locate their operations? 

Availability of Production Inputs

As we discussed earlier, organizations need certain resources to produce products and services for sale. Access to these resources, or inputs, is a huge consideration in site selection. Executives must assess the availability of raw materials, parts, equipment, and available manpower for each site under consideration. The cost of shipping raw materials and finished goods can be as much as 25 percent of a manufacturer’s total cost, so locating a factory where these and other costs are as low as possible can make a major contribution to a firm’s success.

Companies that use heavy or bulky raw materials, for example, may choose to be located close to their suppliers. Mining companies want to be near ore deposits, oil refiners near oil fields, paper mills near forests, and food processors near farms. Bottlers are discovering that rural western communities in need of an economic boost make rich water sources. In Los Lunas, New Mexico, it made sense for Niagara Purified Drinking Water to produce purified bottled water in a 166,000 square foot building that was vacant. The business helps diversify the town’s economy and created 40 new, much-needed jobs.1

The availability and cost of labour are also critical to both manufacturing and service businesses, and the unionization of local labour is another point to consider in many industries. Payroll costs can vary widely from one location to another due to differences in the cost of living; the number of jobs available; and the size, skills, and productivity of the local workforce. In the case of the water-bottling company, a ready pool of relatively inexpensive labour was available due to high unemployment in the areas.

Marketing Factors

Businesses must evaluate how their facility location will affect their ability to serve their customers. For some firms, it may not be necessary to be located near customers. Instead, the firm will need to assess the difficulty and costs of distributing its goods to customers from its chosen location. Other firms may find that locating near customers can provide marketing advantages. When a factory or service center is close to customers, the firm can often offer better service at a lower cost. Other firms may gain a competitive advantage by locating their facilities so that customers can easily buy their products or services. The location of competitors may also be a consideration. And businesses with more than one facility may need to consider how far to spread their locations in order to maximize market coverage.

Manufacturing Environment

Another factor to consider is the manufacturing environment in a potential location. Some localities have a strong existing manufacturing base. When a large number of manufacturers in a certain industry are already located in an area, that area is likely to offer greater availability of resources, such as manufacturing workers, better accessibility to suppliers and transportation, and other factors that can increase a plant’s operating efficiency.

Nestlé is proposing to open a new bottled water plant in the desert city of Phoenix. The plants have provided much-needed employment to replace jobs lost in the recession of 2008. The city of Phoenix faced opposition to the plant because some locals thought that diverting water from tap water to a for-profit entity was not a sound idea. Phoenix officials contend that the source of water is adequate for decades to come.2

Local Incentives

Incentives offered by countries, states, or cities may also influence site selection. Tax breaks are a common incentive. A locality may reduce the amount of taxes a firm must pay on income, real estate, utilities, or payroll. Local governments may offer financial assistance and/or exemptions from certain regulations to attract or keep production facilities in their area. For example, many U.S. cities are competing to attract a second Amazon headquarters and, in addition to promoting local attractions and a strong workforce, most of them are offering a host of tax incentives.3

International Location Considerations

There are often sound financial reasons for considering a foreign location. Labour costs are considerably lower in countries such as Singapore, China, India, and Mexico. Foreign countries may also have fewer regulations governing how factories operate. A foreign location may also move production closer to new markets. Automobile manufacturers such as ToyotaBMW, and Hyundai are among many that build plants in the United States to reduce shipping costs.

Designing the Facility

After the site location decision has been made, the next focus in production planning is the facility’s layout. The goal is to determine the most efficient and effective design for the particular production process. A manufacturer might opt for a U-shaped production line, for example, rather than a long, straight one, to allow products and workers to move more quickly from one area to another.

Service organizations must also consider layout, but they are more concerned with how it affects customer behaviour. It may be more convenient for a hospital to place its freight elevators in the center of the building, for example, but doing so may block the flow of patients, visitors, and medical personnel between floors and departments.

There are three main types of facility layouts: process, product, and fixed-position.


In the service sector, most businesses must design their facilities with the customer in mind: they must accommodate the needs of their customers while keeping costs as low as possible. Let’s see how BK has met this challenge.

For its first three decades, almost all BK restaurants were pretty much the same. They all sat on one acre of land (located “through the light and to the right”), had about four thousand square feet of space, and held seating for seventy customers. All kitchens were roughly the same size. As long as land was cheap and sites were readily available, this system worked well. By the early 1990s, however, most of the prime sites had been taken, if not by BK itself, then by one of its fast-food competitors or other businesses needing a choice spot, including gas stations and convenience stores. With everyone bidding on the same sites, the cost of a prime acre of land had increased from $100,000 to over $1 million in a few short years.

To continue growing, BK needed to change the way it found and developed its locations. Planners decided that they had to find ways to reduce the size of a typical BK restaurant. For one thing, they could reduce the number of seats, because the business at a typical outlet had shifted over time from 90 percent inside dining to a 50-50 split between drive-through and eat-in service.

David Sell (the same executive who had recommended letting customers fill their own drink cups) proposed to save space by wrapping Whoppers in paper instead of serving them in cardboard boxes that took up more space. So BK switched to a single paper wrapper with the label “Whopper” on one side and “Cheese Whopper” on the other. To show which product was inside, employees just folded the wrapper in the right direction. Ultimately, BK replaced pallets piled high with boxes with just a few boxes of wrappers.

Ideas like these helped BK trim the size of a restaurant from four thousand square feet to as little as one thousand. In turn, smaller facilities enabled the company to enter markets that were once cost-prohibitive. Now BK could locate profitably in airports, food courts, strip malls, centre-city areas, and even schools.


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Introduction to Management Copyright © by Kathleen Rodenburg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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