Backward Scheduling – What Is It, and Can It Boost Your Business?

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As a business owner, you know how important deadlines are. Shipping, delivering, scheduling, and more must happen at certain times to meet expectations.

Think back to the Christmas season. Wouldn’t it have been disastrous if someone ordered a gift that arrived after Christmas? What about the customer who stays home from work to receive an expensive item? If that package arrives too early or too late, the customer will be disappointed in your service.

Or someone ordering food: If their meal comes too late, they miss lunch. As a result, they’re hungry, irritable, and probably not willing to give you a great review.

Scheduling is necessary for meeting deadlines. You have two options: backward and forward scheduling. Which is better for you? And how can you use them to compete in your business sphere? To answer these questions, you need to have an understanding of what each of these terms means.

What Is Forward and Backward Scheduling?

Scheduling was first used in the manufacturing industry to optimize the production process and allocate resources. However, both scheduling methods are universally applicable for strategic planning. To understand backward scheduling better, let’s start with forward scheduling.

Forward Scheduling Definition

In short, forward scheduling is “early-bird” scheduling. In this method, orders are filled as soon as resources come available – even early. This method allows businesses to determine the earliest completion time for tasks. Forward scheduling is useful for serial production or fast delivery.

Let’s say you deliver meals. The customer wants their meal now so they can get back to work. Forward scheduling ensures their needs are met immediately.

In another example, a customer works from home. Their work computer crashes, so they order a new hard drive online. That customer needs their package to arrive as soon as possible so they can continue working.

Backward Scheduling Definition

On the other hand, backward scheduling is “on-time” scheduling. To elaborate: you or a customer sets a due date, ETA, or completion time for an order. The delivery goes out on that pre-planned date – neither sooner nor later. Think of it like hitting a bulls-eye. If you shoot for any other spot on the target, you’ll miss the mark. This strategic method is useful for a business with build-to-order services or sales forecasting.

Let’s say your drivers deliver groceries. Your customer wants groceries delivered only on weekends because they work other days. If the groceries are delivered when they’re not home, the food will spoil, melt, or get stolen.

In another situation, a customer might order a camera while on vacation. They want the package to arrive after they return so the expensive item doesn’t sit in the sun or get stolen while they’re gone.

Backward scheduling can circumvent these disasters. In both situations, the customer could set a delivery time and expect their package to arrive on time. As a result, your business can avoid customer disappointment and gain a good review.

Challenges Solved by Scheduling

Collectively, these two scheduling approaches solve several problems in business, all of which relate to measurement. Delivery and production scheduling streamlines your business so you can allocate resources and more easily measure revenue and costs. That leads to:

  • Improved time management
  • Simplified client orders
  • Balanced workloads
  • Increased flexibility

Process efficiency leads to better time management for your business, drivers, and clients. A scheduling system simplifies the delivery process for everyone.

Clients can more easily place orders. Drivers know when to deliver. You know when deliveries need to happen and can more easily measure delivery metrics such as average speed, customer satisfaction, and gas consumption.

A scheduling system also simplifies workload management for you. You will know how much work to give each driver. With an understanding of workload, you can also recognize when to hire more drivers.

Forward and backward scheduling makes your business more flexible. Because orders are planned, you can modify them to adapt to fluctuating resources or delays.

Forward vs. Backward Scheduling: Which Is Better?

While both approaches can make business management easier, each has benefits and flaws. Which is more effective? Before choosing between forward scheduling and backward scheduling, examine these advantages and disadvantages.

Forward Scheduling Benefits

There are two main advantages to forward scheduling. For your business, production scheduling and delivery scheduling allows you to fill orders quickly, relieving the pressure of a long company to-do list. For customers, this method can produce higher satisfaction due to fast delivery time. You may also find it easier to overdeliver. For example, let’s say the expected delivery time for a hot meal is one hour. If your driver delivers the meal in 30 minutes, the customer will be pleasantly surprised because your service exceeded their expectations.

Forward Scheduling Disadvantages

At the same time, this method poses several potential disadvantages. It’s less flexible. Due to a lack of planning time, you will struggle to adapt to shortages and delays. Its on-the-fly, chaotic nature can add pressure to the work environment as drivers rush to fill orders. That could lead to accidents, mistakes, and other mishaps.

Backward Scheduling Benefits

That’s where backward scheduling has an advantage. Because this method is more structured and organized, it’s more reliable. Delivery times include possible delays and shortages, relieving some of the pressure that forward scheduling would bring.

Backward Scheduling Disadvantages

Refer to the definition of backward scheduling. Filling orders with this method is like hitting a bulls-eye on a target. With such a narrow window, errors are expected. Shortages happen. A pandemic springs up out of nowhere. Your drivers get stuck in traffic or call in sick. The product never ships to your company. Whatever the case, the only risk with backward scheduling is under-delivering.

When to Use Each Method

Should you use forward or backward scheduling? It depends. What kinds of orders do you fill? What is your industry?

Use forward scheduling if your business doesn’t rely on heavy planning. This is ideal for serial production or food delivery. However, if you’re a planner, use backward. Businesses that focus on build-to-order or print-on-demand (POD) services benefit the most from this method. The same goes for sales forecasting. When you can predict approximately how many orders you fill every week, month, or year, you should use a scheduling method that maps future deliveries for the month.

How to Use Backward Scheduling to Compete

Assuming you’ve chosen backward scheduling, how can you use it to compete? Simply implement it effectively by following these steps. Once you do, you’ll have an advantage over 97 percent of organizations whose strategies fail.

Communicate Constantly

You must communicate your new plan to all your employees multiple times. Be clear, timely, and consistent. In smaller organizations with fewer than 50 employees, this is easier. You should have no problem broadcasting your new scheduling system.

Reallocate Resources

When setting your scheduling plan, shift your priorities. Determine the resources it requires. How much money, time, and staffing are necessary to fill orders? A leader must be willing to adapt to the demands of a scheduling strategy.

Be Accountable

When the new plan begins, hold each other accountable – especially yourself. If you don’t follow through as the business leader, the plan falls apart. Enforce the new scheduling plan, so everyone is on board.

Measure Results

This step is often skipped, but it’s integral to improvement. Track the processes of the scheduling plan. How long do deliveries take? Have customer ratings improved or worsened? Do employees feel overwhelmed? Effective measurement allows you to improve the plan.

Boost Backward Scheduling with a Route Delivery App

Once you have your schedule set and your products are ready for delivery, manage your scheduled deliveries with a route delivery app. Our app helps increase productivity while cutting the costs of driving. That way, you can focus on your business, not route planning. Try it now to start boosting your business.