Aggregate planning is the process of developing, analyzing, and maintaining a preliminary, approximate schedule of the overall operations of an organization. The aggregate plan generally contains targeted sales forecasts, production levels, inventory levels, and customer backlogs. This schedule is intended to satisfy the demand forecast at a minimum cost. Properly done, aggregate planning should minimize the effects of shortsighted, day-to-day scheduling, in which small amounts of material may be ordered one week, with an accompanying layoff of workers, followed by ordering larger amounts and rehiring workers the next week. This longer-term perspective on resource use can help minimize short-term requirements changes with a resulting cost savings.
In simple terms, aggregate planning is an attempt to balance capacity and demand in such a way that costs are minimized. The term "aggregate" is used because planning at this level includes all resources "in the aggregate;" for example, as a product line or family. Aggregate resources could be total number of workers, hours of machine time, or tons of raw materials. Aggregate units of output could include gallons, feet, pounds of output, as well as aggregate units appearing in service industries such as hours of service delivered, number of patients seen, etc.
Aggregate planning does not distinguish among sizes, colors, features, and so forth. For example, with automobile manufacturing, aggregate planning would consider the total number of cars planned for not the individual models, colors, or options. When units of aggregation are difficult to determine (for example, when the variation in output is extreme) equivalent units are usually determined. These equivalent units could be based on value, cost, worker hours, or some similar measure.
Aggregate planning is considered to be intermediate-term (as opposed to long- or short-term) in nature. Hence, most aggregate plans cover a period of three to 18 months....
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