Capacity Planning: Meaning, Strategies, and Process

Capacity Planning: Meaning, Strategies, and Process

Capacity planning is an excellent way to increase corporate productivity. Capacity planning helps you identify potential areas for growth, which boosts investment returns, and maintains good employee morale. Planning your resource capacity is helpful when you manage several projects because it improves your chances of accomplishing them on schedule and within budget. 

Using capacity-based planning helps cut expenses while maximizing the value of resources across all business areas. Let’s look at capacity planning, the advantages of creating a reliable capacity planning strategy, and its best practices.

What Is Capacity Planning?

Capacity planning refers to balancing available resources to meet project capacity requirements or customer demand. Capacity in project and supply chain management is the amount of work an organization can complete in a specific time.

The capacity planning process determines the production capacity needed to satisfy shifting consumer demand. In capacity planning, design capacity is an institution’s optimal ability to complete work within a specific time frame. Organizations utilize capacity planning to estimate their production capacity to adapt to shifting demands for their goods. 

What Are the 3 Types of Capacity Planning?

Three very different types of capacity planning exist, but they all revolve around the same goal: to ensure your business has the information it needs to make well-informed decisions. Here are the three categories of capacity planning.


Ensuring you have sufficient staff to handle your anticipated future workload is the goal of workforce capacity planning. Workforce capacity planning gives you information on whether you have the appropriate number of employees, skill set, and job roles to meet demand.

Your workforce capacity plan can reveal when you have too few employees, providing you with the time and knowledge to hire more. Similarly, it can let you know when you have too many employees, so you can consider downsizing or moving them to another company department.

Workforce capacity planning ensures you have the employees required to fulfill your organizational goals and that they are present in the appropriate place at the right time.

Planning workforce capacity helps you deliver more initiatives on time and within budget while also delighting your customers and preventing worker burnout. Burning out your employees may result in increased turnover, more sick days, and decreased productivity.


The second type of capacity planning ensures proper planning and funding of your various project needs. Project capacity planning helps you estimate the impact your objectives will have on your business.

By providing a reasonable estimate of how much money you can and cannot afford for every project, you establish appropriate levels of spending for all future initiatives. This type of planning ensures you avoid overspending or underfunding and gives you the data to show how many projects you can feasibly complete in a given period.

Most important is that the projects remain within budget while providing an accurate forecast,  which will help the organization determine whether it handles its resources optimally. Project capacity planning can give you a competitive edge through more revenue, less competition, and better profits.


Tool capacity planning ensures you have adequate facilities to finish jobs, including equipment for an assembly line or machinery required to produce and distribute your product.

Tool capacity planning ensures you utilize the best resources available by providing access to the most effective techniques and materials to execute your plans. Your tools should be practical and easy to use while providing the accurate information you need to make well-informed business decisions.

Essential Capacity Planning Strategies

A well-implemented capacity planning strategy’s primary benefit is enhancing your organization’s productivity and efficiency. Here are different capacity planning strategies for your organization.

Strategy 1: The Lag Strategy

Planning using a lag strategy means having adequate resources to satisfy actual demand rather than anticipated demand. A lag strategy is a conservative approach to capacity planning that guarantees the lowest possible costs.

The lag strategy’s potential drawback is that it can cause a delay in providing goods or services to clients. The lag strategy may prevent you from achieving deadlines if you suddenly see a rush in orders or sign a big new client who demands quick turnaround times.

For example, if you expect an increase in sales but only have half the sales team on hand to meet the demand, your salespeople will likely work overtime or cancel other plans to meet the increased demand. The downside is that you may overwork your team, leading to burnout. However, with the lag strategy, you cut the cost of hiring new employees.

Strategy 2: The Lead Strategy

The main goal of lead capacity planning is to have adequate resources to meet demand projections. Risk-taking in the lead strategy is higher than in the lag strategy. The lead strategy calls for a one-time investment to boost capacity. Before visitor demand increases, you recruit additional workers or purchase more equipment.

reviewing analytics data

The main advantage of the lead strategy is that you keep all your clients satisfied and fulfill production lead time deadlines even if there is a sudden increase in orders. 

The drawback is that if the booking volume stays the same, you will have additional personnel that you may not need. If you recruit new personnel but don’t get the expected orders, you end up losing money by paying staff to wait around.

For instance, through the lead strategy, if you work in a sales company and have a big event over the next few months, but find out your staff will only have enough time to complete half the expected workload, you can hire more employees to make up for the job.

Strategy 3: The Match Strategy

The match strategy falls between the lag and lead strategies. Match strategy helps you plan strategic capacity more regularly. You keep a close eye on changes in the market and expected demand and can meet actual demand.

You modify your capacity management using the acquired data to fulfill demand incrementally. With less risk than the lead strategy, and more significant scaling potential than the lag strategy, the match strategy approach gives the most effective flexibility.

For instance, using the match strategy, if your point-of-sale system shows a sudden decrease in demand for one product, you can quickly adjust by assigning less staff to that department or allocating more resources to another project.

What Are the Benefits of Capacity Planning?

The capacity planning process identifies and satisfies actual and future demand for your products. 


The availability of resources in project management affects how long it takes to execute particular projects. It’s much better to know the specific facilities required to complete a project at a given time right at the beginning. 

A capacity plan takes the availability of each resource and makes it accessible in one location, which is effectively an aggregated resource plan. Knowing that your current project management plan is trustworthy is highly beneficial to a project manager.

Staffing Retention

Hiring the right staff is one of your biggest challenges as a project manager. When you run short on labor, your current team gets angry and frustrated, making them less productive and unlikely to take on any new projects, leading to high turnover.

interior planning on paper

With an intelligent capacity plan, you don’t have to worry about hiring staff. You can predict and control the team’s skills through planning capacity. Capacity planning and resource tools can provide information on talent use to help you make data-informed hiring decisions, leading to improved staff retention rates.

Larger Project Margins

Using capacity planning, you can create project schedules that best use the least expensive resource planning methods. 

For instance, you might have a project in mind to begin next month, but the only supervisor accessible is a senior supervisor. With a capacity plan, you could see that you could start the project the following month, deploy a junior supervisor who is still qualified to execute the task, and avoid running the risk of overburdening the client or delaying the project.

Anticipating Team Skills

Capacity planning tools help you mobilize the right team to execute projects effectively. The correct data on staff skills, availability, and experience allows you to determine when a project or a particular stage of a project requires more resources. 

You can prevent errors in resource assignments by knowing where you have enough employees to work on your projects and where you need additional human capital.

Allocating Resources

With advanced resource allocation, you can be sure resources will be there when you require them. Additionally, you may allocate limited resources based on business goals, ensuring that you assign your best team members to your most important tasks. 

Additionally, you can spot conflicts and identify bottlenecks, times of excessive or insufficient resource use, and any other resource hazards that might need addressing. Doing this in advance can reduce costs and create a resource management strategy that limits lost productivity.

Minimizing Costs

The cost of the resources used to execute your project is an essential consideration for any organization.

Balancing the cost of using a resource against the benefit you could gain from using that resource helps to determine whether or not you will be able to achieve your goals. Knowing which resources are suitable for each task enables you to manage your costs effectively. 

With this information, you can predict when it is better to take on new projects and when it is more cost-effective to focus on existing projects.

Creating a Capacity Plan (Step-by-Step)

The product capacity planning process augments a business’s project planning and management functions, resulting in increased profitability. Let’s look at the steps to create a successful capacity plan.

Step 1: Predict Your Future Demand

Create an accurate estimate of the work you need to complete new projects if you know they are coming up. You can compare this estimate to the capacity you currently have to get a sense of the resource capacity you’ll need to finish the job.

Look at the changes in your industry and where you can improve to attract more customers. If you want to expand operations, identify the demand for your product and how much it will increase or decrease in the future.

Step 2: Determine Your Current Capacity Limit

Look at your cross-functional team’s capacity and what they can accomplish in their available time. Don’t forget to factor in regular tasks like administrative work, email, meeting attendance, vacations and sick days. Calculate the amount of time each team member will have to devote to the project.

Step 3: Gauge Your Staff’s Skills and Abilities

Consider whether your staff members have the skills and expertise to complete the projects efficiently and effectively. They must be well-versed in specific roles such as project management or customer service business for a better user experience.

You will have a better idea of what types of staff you need when you accurately analyze your current resources and determine which staff members you can allocate to specific projects.

Step 4: Consider Your Project Requirements

When working on a project requiring less staff, estimate how many staff will be required to complete the task. If you are required to complete a more extensive project, count how many hours each staff member will work throughout the project and decide whether you need to recruit more employees.

Step 5: Choose What Software To Use

Based on your needs and budget, you can determine whether investing in a custom software solution is more cost-effective than purchasing an out-of-the-box software tool.

While spreadsheets and individual Gantt charts can plan capacity, utilizing specialized software is the most efficient method for capacity and resource planning. 

Many activities take place during a project, and the critical path gets drastically altered by a single staff member being absent due to illness or a change in the project’s scope. 

In addition, resources get frequently shared among several projects, impacting labor requirements. In such a complicated setting, manually modifying plans would be time-consuming and susceptible to human mistakes. Resource planning software can automatically adjust capacity plans with just a few clicks.

Step 6: Align Your Capacity With Demand

As a project administrator, ensure you allocate enough staff to complete your current projects. An accurate picture of the resource planning required can help save money by preventing excess resource utilization.

Step 7: Begin Allocating Your Resources

You can consider distributing resources after you know what’s available, the project requirements, and the business priorities. Capacity planning is a dynamic, continuing process, and your plan might need to adapt as things change. 

For instance, if you use the match method for capacity planning, you will regularly assess your prediction and allocations to ensure they are accurate and feasible to meet demand.

Step 8: Analyze Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Several metrics, including your project’s KPIs, can measure your performance. An accurate assessment of your team’s performance is essential to making informed decisions about current and future business performance. 

Capacity Planning Best Practices

By following best practices, you can minimize unnecessary costs and improve your ability to deliver high-quality work to the people who need it most. An accurate estimate of actual capacity will help you prevent failure and avoid wasted resources.

Develop a Resource Pool

Include all the company’s resources, or, at the very least, the project portfolio and its capacity, in your resource pool. The best course of action is to highlight resource estimations for your most essential resources before ascertaining who works on what.

When you want to accomplish a big project, you must consider your employees’ availability and skill level. Failing to do this risks an overly stretched workforce and ultimately leads to a decrease in productivity.

A resource pool is a group of employees prepared to work on projects requiring specific skills or knowledge. Resource pooling allows you to take on more projects and the flexibility to assign the best team for each job.

Prioritize Projects

Knowing which tasks are the top business priority in resource planning is helpful. Focusing on the initiatives that have the most significant effects on your company is advisable.

You must be able to prioritize your projects so you can successfully achieve your goals. Doing this allows you to deliver high-quality projects on time and within budget.

To prioritize projects, open your project management tool and sort your projects by their importance. Evaluate the critical path of each project and analyze which tasks are most time-sensitive. Be sure to consider progress and dependencies between projects.

Allocate Tasks

You must be able to allocate the correct number of tasks to each project, ensuring that each project receives the required attention and that you do not waste any resources.

To assign tasks, you can create a detailed task list that shows the time each employee is committed to a specific project.

Account for Day-to-Day Operational Tasks

Accounting for tasks will help your team interact effectively with clients. These daily work activities include administrative tasks, email management, and meetings. Track the hours your staff members work to measure their contribution accurately.

When Should You Use Capacity Planning?

The capacity planning process allows you to decide what projects to take on by helping you anticipate possible resource shortages and help your organization efficiently achieve its goals. Here are considerations to help you determine whether you need capacity planning.

Level of Demand

Consider how much demand you are likely to have for your business. Is the market likely to fluctuate? If so, how much? Capacity planning is a great way to manage the business’s resources so that they are effectively used while meeting the demand.

Cost of Production

The cost of production is the total cost to have a unit or product completed, including staffing and other resources. If your project has high production costs, it makes sense to ensure that your business has enough capacity to meet the demand without exceeding your budget.

Final Thoughts

Capacity planning helps you predict the amount of time and resources your project will need. It also enables you to make informed decisions about the project’s scope and requirements. These steps can help you implement capacity planning on your next project without wasting time or money.