It’s hard to plan how much capacity you’re going to have or need for a certain task, project, moment, or scenario in most areas of life.  Many people adjust as they go, making room where they can. 

While this is a somewhat unfortunate truth of life, it doesn’t have to be one in business. Though there’s no way to know for sure how much product to order in six months or how many workers you’ll need in a year, there is something that can get you as close to these answers as you can possibly be: capacity planning.

What Is Capacity Planning?

A capacity planning process involves determining how much production capacity is required to meet changing demand for products. Design capacity refers to an organization's maximum capacity to accomplish work over a given time period in capacity planning.

Capacity planning process is used by organizations to determine their production capacity in order to meet the changing needs of their products. A design capacity is an organization's maximum ability to complete a specified amount of work in a given time period, in the context of capacity planning.

Capacity planning is the act of balancing available resources to satisfy customer demand or project capacity needs. In project management and production, capacity refers to the amount of work that can get completed in a given amount of time.

The capacity planning process is crucial in project management knowledge areas such as:

  • Resource management
  • Time management
  • Team management
  • Work Management

Production capacity, strategy planning, and project planning go hand in hand. Planning is the task of scheduling the team members so that the work gets completed on time. Capacity management is not a set procedure. Because every company is distinct and demand keeps fluctuating, project managers can employ various capacity planning methodologies to respond to different conditions.

Capacity Planning Strategies

There are three capacity planning methodologies to assist you in meeting the demand, covering your resource needs, and boosting the productivity of your team members.

1. Lag Strategy

The lag method entails having sufficient resources to fulfill demand rather than planned demand estimations. This capacity planning technique is advantageous for smaller firms with limited capacity requirements.

2. Lead Strategy

The primary strategy entails having enough resources to satisfy demand estimates. The lead strategy planning technique is beneficial since your extra capacity can accommodate the rising demand.

3. Match Strategy

This technique combines the lead and lag capacity planning approaches. In this instance, project managers must monitor actual demand, demand planning estimates, and market developments to modify capacity.

Types of Capacity Planning

Capacity planning itself can be split into three types: workforce, product, and tool. Together they ensure that you have the right amount of three main resources for the short- and long-term. 

Workforce Capacity Planning

This capacity planning strategy ensures that you have the workforce needed to meet demand. It’s all about having the right number of workers and hours available to not just complete jobs but complete them well. Should you need to hire more workers (or possibly downsize) you’ll know how far in advance you need to start making changes to accommodate the length of the recruiting and onboarding process.

Product Capacity Planning

This capacity strategy ensures that your business is equipped with the right number of products or resources needed to fulfill deliverables. For example, a pet store needs things like food, pet toys, and equipment like carriers, leashes, and cages. These are all things which are required to fulfill demand.  

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Tool Capacity Planning 

Finally, this type of capacity planning strategy ensures that your business is equipped with the necessary tools. Such tools may include machinery, vehicles, assembly line parts, and anything else needed to create and deliver your product or service in a timely manner.

When Is Capacity Planning Required?

Capacity planning is useful and required any time you’re trying to ensure that your supply meets demand. This means whether it's a week, month, quarter, year, or more, capacity planning is always a good idea and rule of thumb to stick to. 

For many businesses, leaders and managers have a lot to handle. Among some of their responsibilities are:

  • Keeping track of autonomous teams
  • Being aware of changing priorities
  • Preparing for unpredictable tasks 
  • Matrix structures
  • Handling remote workers
  • The space between actual work and planned work (i.e., the reality of the situation)

With so many moving parts, it doesn’t make sense to go forward without a plan. Having a capacity planning strategy is a great way to get ahead of the challenges that are sure to arise. 

Capacity planning is a great way to invest your time because it helps you address possible future issues, take advantage of the benefits that come with planning, improve team performance, and streamline your business tasks for increased efficiency. 

How Does Capacity Planning Help in Sprint Planning?

To keep things organized, many companies practice sprint planning. Sprint planning refers to organizing and assigning all tasks to the right team members in a certain period of time. 

In many cases, sprint planning is dependent on each team member doing their part. This means that once a task is done, another team member can start their task, and so on. If one team member falls behind, it could derail the process to some degree, but this is where capacity planning comes in.

With capacity planning, sprint planning is made tighter, more efficient, and achievable. When you prepare for possibilities like missed deadlines, not having enough workers or product, or even bottlenecks in the supply chain, you’re better equipped to handle such issues should they come up. 

In a way, capacity is like having a Plan A and a Plan B in one: you have your main course of action as well as several contingency plans should anything go wrong, become delayed, or need extra attention.

Capacity Planning Benefits

If you’re looking for the main benefit of capacity planning, there are actually quite a few! Businesses who adopt a capacity planning methodology to increase efficiency and meet demand may find themselves enjoying some or all of the following benefits:

Reduce Stock-Outs

Stock-outs occur when you fail to meet customer demand. It’s no secret that customers don’t like to wait, and you being “out” of a product or service will only push them onto the next business that can meet their demand. Thankfully, one benefit of capacity planning is that you can reduce stock-outs and even avoid them altogether. Throughout your planning process you’ll see how the market and demand fluctuate, making you better able to predict supply and demand changes. 

Identify Inefficiencies in Your Business Process

Another benefit of capacity planning is knowing your minimum and maximum capacity of resources. Whatever you’re looking at (be it product, people, equipment, or resources), you’ll know what factors may limit capacity and how to avoid them to ensure you always have what you need.

Increase Delivery Capacity

Today’s customers want their products immediately. Quick turnaround times for deliveries can spell success for a business, while slower delivery times can lose business. Capacity planning is a great way to gauge your delivery capacity so that you know you have the workers available to deliver your products as soon as they’re purchased, making you a contender among the market competition.

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Confirm Availability 

Another notable benefit of capacity planning is ensuring future availability. Before you sign a new contract or send another proposal to a potential client, capacity planning helps you know for sure that you have the workforce and resources needed to take care of your new customers, projects, and more.

Capacity Planning vs. Resource Planning

While "capacity planning" and "resource planning" are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. We've listed the distinctions below to help you comprehend them.

Capacity Planning

  1. It is a strategic planning procedure meant to assist you in determining whether your business has the necessary production capacity to satisfy demand.
  2. It considers the availability of resources at the skill set/team level.
  3. It helps the decision-making process for hiring resources or deferring/approving/canceling initiatives.
  4. Capacity planning is concerned with supply and demand.

Resource Planning

  1. It is a strategic planning procedure that coordinates and assigns resources to project activities based on resource needs.
  2. It gives project managers a strategy for which resources to employ and when to use them for their projects.
  3. Resource planning is concerned with resource allocation.

Capacity Planning vs. Capacity Requirements Planning

The stage preceding capacity planning is capacity requirements planning. It is the process through which an organization determines how much it needs to produce and if it has the production capacity to do so.

Capacity Planning Best Practices

Here are some pointers and best practices for capacity planning to assist you with your resources and teams.

  • Form a Cross-Functional Team: A cross-functional team with varied levels and roles is required to cooperate and communicate regarding production capacity and resource management.
  • Determine Resource Capacity: Before you develop a production capacity plan, you must first determine your present capacity and available resources.
  • Determine the Resources Needed: Examine the scope of each project and the resources necessary to complete the project's task.
  • Project Prioritization: Which projects are most vital, and which can go on hold for the time being? You can't do it all at once.
  • Allocate Resources Based on Project Priority: Now, allocate those priority projects and ensure they are in sync with the organization's goals.
  • Maintain Open Lines of Communication: Communicate with executives, project management leaders, and stakeholders.
  • Document Known Risks: Keep an eye out for risks like union strikes, bad weather, and government laws that might put a project on hold or introduce new ones unexpectedly.
  • Plan for Dealing with Excess Capacity: Understand where it is, how to handle it (for example, reassignment), or insufficient capacity (again, where/how).
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