Scheduling is one of the most difficult tasks that custom manufacturing shops face. Production and shop floor schedules need to be detailed, and in custom shops, require a high-level of coordination. “Traditionally, scheduling in a custom manufacturing environment is very complicated, as it involves so many departments, components, and long lead-time items,” says Dominic Vezina, General Manager of Genius Solutions, a manufacturing-specific ERP provider.


But, getting scheduling right is one of the biggest things a custom shop can do to get more jobs completed and out the door on time. Many custom manufacturers rely on ERPs to help them create efficient and effective schedules. ERPs will connect your entire shop, giving you greater insight and visibility into your production line, as well as let you use real-time data to create more accurate and efficient schedules.

With an ERP you can align your entire organization and better manage the priorities that drive your business forward. Armed with the data an ERP provides, you will be able to schedule work centers, personnel, and required parts and tools based on your Bill of Materials (BOM), as well as according to actual workload and capacity.

But, for some custom shops that’s not enough, and scheduling is still too complicated and shops aren’t running as efficiently as they can, or need, to be. That’s where DBR, or Drum-Buffer-Rope, scheduling can help. DBR scheduling helps custom manufacturers by identifying the resource in a shop that is slowing things down, and then creates a schedule around that resource, making your entire shop run smoother and perform better.


Drum-Buffer-Rope (DBR) is a scheduling tool that is derived from the Theory of Constraints (ToC). The underlying principle of DBR scheduling is that within any manufacturing shop there is a Drum—one, or a limited number of, scarce resources—which controls the overall output of the shop. The performance of the system’s constraint—the Drum—will determine the performance of the system as a whole.

The first step in creating a DBR schedule is to identify the Drum. The Drum is typically the most heavily loaded resource or work center in your shop. Once the Drum is identified, an ERP equipped with a DBR scheduling tool will automatically prepare a detailed schedule, accounting for the Drum, and each job and task on a project will be prioritized and scheduled. A DBR schedule squeezes the highest possible level of performance from the Drum, and, therefore, is the most effective and efficient schedule for the shop as a whole.

To ensure that you won’t get behind on your schedule and that your production won’t be disrupted, a Buffer is put in place to guard against delays and problems. The Buffer is a period of time that is designed to protect the Drum resource from problems that occur upstream from the Drum operation. What this means is that the Drum will never be starved for work, and that jobs will pass through to the Drum at the correct pace.

And finally, Ropes, or mechanisms that allow jobs to flow seamlessly through the shop, are identified to ensure smooth production. While the Drum sets the master schedule, and the Buffer provides protection, the Rope communicates and controls the actions necessary to support the production system.


Traditional scheduling algorithms can’t always deal with the complexity of custom manufacturing shops and they will significantly inflate production lead times to compensate for bottlenecks. But with an ERP equipped with DBR scheduling, because the schedule is created around the most heavily loaded resource in your shop, all of this excess time is eliminated from your schedule and products flow through the production system as quickly and efficiently as possible.

DBR helps prevent costly delays and deliver more products on time, as it gives you an accurate, prioritized schedule to follow, and you are able to schedule your shop to its actual maximum capacity. Instead of building a schedule based off of guesswork, your schedule is developed around, and built to support, the resource in your shop that slows you down. As well, in a DBR schedule, the constraint receives top priority in terms of repairs, maintenance, and setups so you won’t have unexpected equipment downtime, and any delays that do pop up will be absorbed by the buffer time you have built into your schedule.

DBR allows you to be confident that your plant is running at its maximum throughput level and that you have an efficient prioritized schedule. “An ERP with a DBR scheduling tool simplifies the process by identifying a plant’s most limited resource, and then automatically generates a schedule around this resource. By doing so, it creates a heartbeat for a shop, so-to-speak,” Explains Vezina of Genius Solutions. “This produces a more efficient and effective scheduling system, which lets a manufacturer meet their ultimate goal: to deliver more jobs on time and increase their throughput.”

No matter the type of manufacturing shop you are, find an ERP with the right tools and features for you. Custom manufacturing is complicated and the right ERP, equipped with the right tools for your shop, will help you improve your manufacturing.

By- Jesse Linklater