The workload control literature highlights the importance of balancing the shop floor workload, but also acknowledges that this can conflict with processing the most urgent orders – hence, there is a trade-off. In practice, shops contain many complexities, e.g. simultaneous batching and sequence-dependent set-up times that may conflict with processing the most urgent orders and require other solutions than workload balancing to avoid capacity losses. This adds to the trade-off dilemma, which traditionally only considers timing and balancing. This paper develops a framework that determines whether to address a complexity through order release or dispatching. It comprises two dimensions: (i) the typical position of a complexity in the routing of an order and (ii) the criticality of the complexity. A case study is presented, which demonstrates the framework’s utility and illustrates the development of specific solutions designed to handle the complexities. Most complexities present in the case require handling at the order release stage. The challenges of handling multiple complexities at this decision level are evaluated. Finally, the implications for managers and future research are outlined.