Capacity Planning: The Power of Prediction



Photo by Museums Victoria

Do you ever feel like your business doesn’t have enough hours in the day? Or that working harder and faster isn’t getting you anywhere close to where you need to be? Well, it could be because of a lack of capacity planning.

Capacity planning is an integral part of any successful business endeavor and understanding how to use it correctly can help make sure that all the pieces are lined up for future success. It involves setting goals, budgeting for resources, forecasting growth trends and efficiently utilizing personnel within their scope of work.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about capacity planning, including practical tools and advice on making the most out of your current manpower!

What Is Capacity Planning?

Simply put, capacity planning is the process of determining the appropriate amount of resources needed to meet the demands of an organization. It ensures that a business can maximize its performance while meeting all customers’ wants and maintaining operational efficiency without running into the dreaded “out of stock” nightmare or overexerting itself.

However, capacity planning is not just about making sure you have enough of everything. It involves finding the sweet spot where you’re not overstocking or tying up valuable capital, and not underestimating demand and missing out on potential sales. It’s a delicate balancing act that requires a bit of mathematical prowess, a deep understanding of customer behavior, and a willingness to adapt and pivot as conditions change.

Capacity Planning vs Resource Planning

In addition to the above, capacity planning involves assessing the maximum level of output that a particular system, process, or operation can handle within a given time frame. In other words, it’s all about figuring out just how much your business can handle before things start to buckle under pressure. This includes everything from physical infrastructure (like buildings and machinery) to human resources (like staff and their expertise).

Resource planning, on the other hand, is about defining what resources your business needs in order to meet its goals and how to manage the available resources in the best way possible. This involves identifying areas where your business is lacking something, and then figuring out how to acquire the resources necessary to fill those gaps.

So, how do these two concepts differ?

Well, while capacity planning is focused on figuring out the upper limit of what a given system can handle, resource planning is focused on figuring out what needs to be added in order to achieve a desired outcome. Essentially, capacity planning is about making sure that your business isn’t pushed beyond its limits, while resource planning is about making sure that your business has everything it needs in order to succeed.

3 Key Types of Capacity Planning

  • Workforce planning — Personnel is the most vital resource for most organizations, and workforce planning specifically focuses on ensuring you have the right number of employees with the right skills to meet demand. This includes forecasting employee availability, hiring needs, training plans, and even budgeting for salaries and benefits.
  • Facility planning — If your business relies on physical brick-and-mortar locations, you’ll need to make sure you have enough space to meet demand. Facility planning involves forecasting the growth of your business and making sure you have the necessary space and equipment to keep up.
  • System planning — For businesses that rely heavily on technology (which, let’s be honest, is most of them these days), system planning is key. This involves forecasting your IT needs, including hardware, software, and network infrastructure, in order to keep things running smoothly.

Main Approaches to Capacity Planning

  • Strategic — This is the big-picture stuff. It involves assessing your company’s long-term goals, analyzing market trends, and making predictions about future demand. Strategic capacity planning helps companies prepare for growth and expansion.
  • Tactical — This type of planning is more short-term. Tactical capacity planning involves adjusting production levels to meet current demand. This is where efficiency and optimization come into play.
  • Operational — This is where the rubber meets the road. Operational capacity planning involves managing day-to-day resources to ensure smooth production. This type of planning focuses on maximizing efficiency and minimizing downtime.

3 Primary Capacity Planning Strategies

1. Lead capacity planning

As its name suggests, lead strategy refers to leading the demand curve. It involves anticipating future demand and increasing capacity before it arrives, so you’re prepared to meet it head-on.


Let’s say you’re running a small bakery that specializes in creating delicious and intricate desserts. You’ve been in business for a few years and noticed that demand for your treats almost exceeded your ability to fulfill it during the last Christmas period. You’ve got a limited number of ovens and staff, after all, and only so many hours in the day.

This is where lead capacity planning comes in.

By analyzing your sales trends and projections, you can start to get a sense of how much demand you’ll be facing the next Christmas season. From there, you can make informed decisions about how to increase your capacity in order to meet that demand (i.e., you might decide to invest in additional ovens or hire extra staff members).

2. Lag capacity planning

Lag capacity planning is a strategy used by companies to minimize risks associated with variable demand and capacity constraints. It involves intentionally delaying the expansion of capacity until the need arises, thereby reducing wasted resources and excess costs.


Imagine a hotel that experiences peak demand during the summer season. Traditionally, the hotel might plan to expand its capacity by adding more rooms to ensure it can accommodate all the guests. However, with lag capacity planning, the hotel would wait until they observe a consistent increase in demand before adding more rooms. By doing so, the hotel will avoid overexpansion and the risks associated with it.

3. Match capacity planning

The match strategy allows businesses to maintain the balance between their capacity and customer needs without overcommitting resources during low-demand seasons or periods. It seeks to align capacity with demand in real time and match the anticipated demand with available resources as accurately as possible.


A canteen that services a university campus might use the match strategy by analyzing the number of students within a given period. It will also consider the average purchase by each student from day to day.

By understanding these key metrics, the canteen owner can optimize their production capacity to align with the expected demand. Hence, they will ensure they always have enough meals prepared to meet the demand without experiencing shortages or dealing with unnecessary waste.

4 Useful Capacity Planning Techniques

  • Trend analysis — This technique involves tracking historical data to identify trends and patterns that can help predict future growth and demand. By analyzing historical sales figures, visitor logs, staff absences, or other relevant data, organizations can make reasonable projections about their capacity needs in the coming months or years.
  • Resource utilization — This technique focuses on measuring and analyzing the utilization of existing resources to determine how efficiently they are allocated and implemented. This way, you can identify opportunities to optimize resource usage, maximize your output potential, and avoid unnecessary waste.
  • Scenario planning — This technique involves creating multiple scenarios based on different possible outcomes and assessing the likelihood and potential impact of each scenario. It can help you identify potential risks and opportunities, and develop plans to mitigate or capitalize on them accordingly.
  • Workload characterization — This methodology is about mapping out the workflows and processes involved in delivering products or services, and identifying potential bottlenecks or capacity constraints. By understanding how workloads are distributed across employees or other resources, you can optimize your capacity planning to ensure the right resources are available at the right time.

5-Step Capacity Planning Process

Step 1: Define expected demand

This is where you pull out your crystal ball and try to guess what your customers are going to want in the future. Look at past data, market trends, and any other factors that might affect demand. The key is to make an educated guess, not one based on wishful thinking.

Step 2: Estimate the required resource capacity

Once you have an idea of what demand will look like, you need to figure out how much you’ll need to produce to meet it and which resources will help you with that. Consider everything from physical resources like machinery and materials to human resources like staff and their skill sets. Crunch those numbers and make sure you have enough to meet demand.

Step 3: Measure your current capacity

Now it’s time to take a long, hard look at what you have. How much can you currently produce? Are there any bottlenecks or constraints that might limit production? Be honest with yourself — it’s better to know your limits now than to find out the hard way later.

Step 4: Identify the capacity gap

Once you know what you can do and what you need to do, compare the two. Is there a gap between what you can produce and what you need to produce? If so, how big is it? This will help you determine just how much work you need to do to bridge the gap.

Step 5: Match resource capacity with demand

Finally, figure out how to close that gap. This might mean investing in new machinery or hiring additional staff. Alternatively, you might need to adjust your production processes or streamline operations. Whatever it takes, make sure you align your resource capacity with demand to ensure you can keep up with all those hungry customers.

Top 5 Capacity Planning Software Solutions

1. actiPLANS

Key features:

  • Leave management
  • Work scheduling
  • Time off reports
  • Mobile app
  • Automatic notifications
  • Time tracking integration

actiPLANS is a top-of-the-line workforce management tool that can help with capacity planning and much more. It allows for effortless employee availability management while streamlining the resource scheduling process, reducing labor costs, and boosting overall productivity.

With actiPLANS, you can easily create resource schedules that are tailored to the needs of your business just perfectly. It features a visual timeline that displays employees’ time off, making it easy to plan out work considering employee availability and ensure that you have the right number of staff on hand to meet the varying demands of your business, without over- or understaffing.

actiPLANS offers advanced reporting features that help to track employee attendance, analyze staff absences, and see trends over time. This data gives invaluable insight for making more informed decisions about your team’s capacity and identifying areas where you can improve productivity.

The software boasts unparalleled flexibility:

  • You can create your own leave types and work types, set preferable time off accrual rules, and automate leave request approval if you like.
  • Your employees can schedule their shift preferences, instantly access personal time off data, and request leave days in just a few clicks.

This means they can more effectively manage their work schedule around their personal lives, which lets you create a happier, more fulfilled workforce.

Pricing: Starting from $1.2 per user a month.

Best for: Teams of any size and from any industry.

2. Float

Key features:

  • Project planning
  • Forecasting
  • Scheduling
  • Cost tracking
  • Time tracking

Float is a cloud-based project management tool that helps businesses to efficiently manage their resources and schedules. It allows for the accurate tracking of employee utilization and project timelines, all in one easy-to-use interface.

Float brings a plethora of features to the table that make capacity planning an absolute breeze. It enables you to forecast your team’s availability and workload in the upcoming months. By having this bird’s eye view of your team’s capacity, you can identify potential bottlenecks and make informed decisions about hiring, rescheduling projects, or prioritizing tasks.

Float also allows you to allocate resources according to their availability, skills, and preferences, ensuring that the right people are working on the right projects at the right time. And the software’s simple drag-and-drop interface lets you quickly move tasks and projects around, adjust timelines, and visualize your team’s workload without a hitch.

Pricing: Starting from $6 per user a month.

Best for: Project-oriented teams.

3. Saviom

Key features:

  • Resource management
  • Business intelligence
  • Forecasting
  • Scheduling

Saviom is an all-in-one solution that streamlines your entire workforce management process, providing you with real-time insights and making business-critical decisions a breeze.

Saviom allows you to take into account each team member’s skills, availability, and workload when scheduling resources and then assign tasks and projects to the best-suited individuals. Not only does this greatly reduce the risk of burnout and turnover but also ensures that every team member is working at their optimal capacity — a win-win situation!

Besides, Saviom provides powerful reporting and analytics that help you identify potential bottlenecks and capacity constraints before they become major issues. This way, you can adjust your project plans and resource allocation in real time, ensuring that your projects stay on track and within budget.

Best for: Resourceful businesses and large enterprises.

Pricing: No info available.

4. Resource Guru

Key features:

  • Scheduling
  • Project timelines
  • Leave management
  • Forecasting

ResourceGuru is a cloud-based resource scheduling software that provides businesses with a streamlined solution for managing their workforce.

ResourceGuru gives you complete control over your team’s scheduling, so you always know who’s available and when. With powerful project reports and visual resource scheduling features, you’ll never double-book a staff member again.

But that’s not all — ResourceGuru allows you to accurately forecast your team’s capacity over time, so you can plan ahead for future projects and adjust your staffing levels accordingly. This advanced capability makes ResourceGuru an indispensable tool for managers looking to maximize their operational efficiency.

Best for: Small and medium-sized businesses.

Pricing: Starting from $4.16 per user a month.

5. Parallax

Key features:

  • Resource planning
  • Forecasting
  • Project financials
  • Operations Intelligence

By leveraging the power of data analytics and visualizations, Parallax enables organizations to gain a deeper understanding of how their systems and processes are performing and identify areas where improvements can be made.

One of the key benefits of Parallax is that it allows organizations to forecast future demand based on historical trends and patterns. This is particularly useful for organizations that experience seasonality or other cyclical fluctuations in demand, as it enables them to proactively plan for peak periods and avoid capacity constraints.

Another way that Parallax facilitates capacity planning is by allowing organizations to perform scenario analysis. By simulating different scenarios and testing their impact on capacity utilization, you can identify potential challenges and proactively plan for them. This can help to mitigate risk, avoid disruption to operations, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Best for: Large project-oriented businesses and sales teams.

Pricing: No info available.


Capacity planning is not just for the logistics industry. It’s a great tool for all businesses — no matter their size or scope — to ensure they’re running at optimal levels and prepared for whatever the future may bring. With the right strategies, tools, and techniques in your corner, you can make sure your business never has too much or too little of anything. That way, you’ll be ready and able to tackle any challenge that comes your way with confidence and grace!




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