By: Terry Moss
What is Capacity Planning?
Capacity Planning in the broadcast and media space is the ability to measure available resource capacity and compare it to the demands placed on that capacity.
Benefits of Capacity Planning
The benefits of Capacity Management is ensuring the planned workload can be delivered on time with the available resources, or to provide forward visibility to enable additional resources to be hired/ rented. Once this can be done then it’s a small step to being able to answer the inevitable question:
‘Can we take on this additional work, and if so when can we do it by?’
Available capacity depends on the type of resource; studios can operate 24/7/365 but that meaningless without production personnel being available for that same period, which is typically the case, unless the operation was staffed with that in mind. Generally, production is only available for 8-12 hours per day, extending that period for a long period of time has a negative effect on staff morale and can be prohibitive in terms of pay and benefits.
Available capacity needs to be measured, recognizing that facilities and equipment need scheduled/unscheduled maintenance and human resources need vacation and are unavailable due to, unforeseen events. A lot of historical data can be mined and then applied to adjust capacity to be the more realistic ‘available’ capacity. The application of a certain level of unavailability at different times needs to be done statistically, a year of absences because of COVID shouldn’t be considered the norm, absences on the Monday after Superbowl might be!
Measurement of capacity for production or other personnel is done based upon a combination of working shifts/rosters and a defined hours of availability per day/week depending on how far in the future you are measuring. Frequently rosters/shifts are planned only a month in advance.
Work can be ad hoc, planned well in advance or added at short notice. Work may recur periodically; for example, daily news or weekly game shows or episodic television, that applies to the show itself and the preparation and finishing activities built around the production event such as set construction, set build/tear down, editing and graphics.
Depending on the planning cycle and the time of year there could be situations where most of the work is in production and other situations where the work is still in the budgeting phase. Measuring demand should have the ability to use both sets of data.
Comparing Capacity to Demand
The sheer volume of data involved with hundreds of productions and thousands of resources needs a multi-tiered approach to understand possible issues. At its most basic level capacity against demand should be ideally viewed in chart/graph form, with the ability to add baselines for capacity and demand, so where there is a misalignment it’s easy to identify the cause, lower capacity or excess demand. To do more detailed analysis we want to see data in a tabular form to work out the root cause of the misalignment.
So now we have the good news, or more frequently the bad news, if so, what can we do? Maybe we can remove that lower priority production, not take account of work not currently confirmed. Options should be available to make some basic adjustments and produce some basic options to solve the problem.
Capacity Planning should be available year-round not just in the production planning cycle, so we can see the effect of adding a new production or stopping an existing production mid-season.
Future direction for Capacity Planning
Large scale production planning benefits from the ability to compare Capacity against Demand but what happens if Demand exceeds Capacity for some periods, and for other periods the reverse occurs. Hiring personnel and facilities for some periods and having crew idle for other periods is less than ideal, so the ability to move work around so that it flattens the capacity against demand curve is a must. With hundreds of variables this is the point at which even the most experienced production planner will struggle to achieve the best result in a realistic period of time.
Tools are needed that will take all the available data, together with the planners input as to the optimum scenario; lowest cost, use of internal staff only, and magically solve the problem. Watch this space!