Workload Control and Order Release: A Lean Solution for Make-to-Order Companies



Protecting throughput from variance is the key to achieving lean. Workload control (WLC) accomplishes this in complex make-to-order job shops by controlling lead times, capacity, and work-in-process (WIP). However, the concept has been dismissed by many authors who believe its order release mechanism reduces the effectiveness of shop floor dispatching and increases work center idleness, thereby also increasing job tardiness results. We show that these problems have been overcome. A WLC order release method known as “LUMS OR” (Lancaster University Management School order release) combines continuous with periodic release, allowing the release of work to be triggered between periodic releases if a work center is starving. This paper refines the method based on the literature (creating “LUMS COR” [Lancaster University Management School corrected order release]) before comparing its performance against the best-performing purely periodic and continuous release rules across a range of flow directions, from the pure job shop to the general flow shop. Results demonstrate that LUMS COR and the continuous WLC release methods consistently outperform purely periodic release and Constant WIP. LUMS COR is considered the best solution in practice due to its excellent performance and ease of implementation. Findings have significant implications for research and practice: throughput times and job tardiness results can be improved simultaneously and order release and dispatching rules can complement each other. Thus, WLC represents an effective means of implementing lean principles in a make-to-order context.