Process planning is a key element in project management that focuses on selecting resources for use in the execution and completion of a project. In a manufacturing setting, this aspect of planning also includes establishing the general sequence of steps that begin with the acquisition of materials and end with the creation of a finished product. Process planning is often closely associated with project planning, although the specific functions of each tool are used differently in the overall strategic planning.
While both process and project planning are necessary to give form and focus to any project, each procedure fulfills specific needs. Process planning helps to create the general process necessary to reach an ultimate goal, such as the creation of a product or the development of a marketing campaign. Project planning looks at each of the steps or processes identified in process planning and defines the specific actions that must take place in order for each of the processes to be completed successfully. In a sense, a process plan provides the framework for a procedure while a project plan provides the specifics of how to complete each step or process necessary to achieve the desired outcome.
Process planning is not a new concept. The strategy has been utilized in business circles for centuries. Private and non-profit organizations often use this same type of planning when structuring a new project or directive. While the amount of detail involved will depend greatly on the scope of the project and the culture of the business or entity conducting the project, the planning works in just about any setting where a group of people wish to determine how to reach a specific goal.
In a manufacturing setting, this type of planning may also address concerns that are related to the steps identified as necessary to create a product. For example, the plan may also address issues such as designing the packaging or labeling for the final product, as well as the creation of user instructions that accompany each unit that is sold.
Today, the use of process planning software is common in both small businesses and large corporations. Sometimes a component in a comprehensive project management software package, it is also possible to purchase computer aided process planning software to compliment other systems. Along with off-the-shelf products, it is not unusual for companies to develop in house software to aid in this task. The proprietary software is especially helpful when the operation of the company involves the use of data or procedures that are don’t fit well with generic software programs.