Overview

As technology has advanced, software functionality has been developed to handle both planning and scheduling functions in manufacturing. Over time this software has become more sophisticated and powerful, delivering significant benefits to the organisation using it.

In this article we will be looking at:

  1. The benefits that a successful implementation of advanced scheduling technology is likely to deliver, as well as the impact of these on the supply chain of today
  2. Key changes in the scheduling function that result in the benefits accrued
  3. Likely future developments in this area and the impact that these will have on supply chains

The benefits of advanced scheduling solutions

There are many case studies of successful implementations of Advanced Scheduling solutions. In general, these case studies report benefits such as:

  1. Significant improvements in customer service across multiple areas, including the ability to: make and keep accurate delivery date promises; handle customer requested priority changes without losing control of other promises already made; provide accurate progress feedback to customers about their production orders; advise early when a delivery promise cannot be met due to irrecoverable issues.
  2. Reductions in stocks, as high as 50%
  3. Increases in productivity as high as 25%.
  4. Significantly reduced planning and scheduling of up to 80%
  5. Local implementation benefit such as: increasing throughput of the factory by 50% for the core production activity, while utilising the same number of operators; reducing the time to generate a schedule in a complex environment from hours to minutes.

Clearly these benefits have had an enormous impact on the supply chain of these companies. More productive operations allow them to improve customer service while holding less inventory.

When one considers these benefits and their impact on the supply chain the question asked is a simple one. Are these benefits a result of systemising and improving on bad methods found in the reporting companies, and therefore only applicable to those companies, or can they or similar benefits be achieved in other environments?

The next section explores the key changes in the scheduling function that result in the reported benefits.

Key changes required in the scheduling function

It is clear from the large number of case studies and wide variety of industries reporting similar benefits that the benefits are likely to be enjoyed by any company implementing advanced scheduling technology for the first time.

The underlying key changes which result in the delivered benefits are:

1.    The availability of a digital twin

  1. Development of a production model / digital twin
    The company needs to develop a system model that is an accurate representation of their actual production process. This system model will be the digital twin of the factory.This is a critical issue governing the acceptance of the use of the scheduling technology.If the model is incomplete and as a result requires the Scheduler to still work outside the system, to instruct production on what to do, the technology will not be accepted. It will not be accepted as it does not represent a clear time saving to the Scheduler or Production Management.
  2. Access to data that is accurate, complete and timeous
    It is necessary to populate the digital twin with accurate data to enable it to reflect the current status of supply, production and demand.As the integrity of the model depends on the accuracy of underlying data such as routing detail, BOM data, inventory record accuracy, demand accuracy, etc.  it is necessary to ensure that this data is accurate and complete.All data and / or information required by the Scheduler for purposes of scheduling and decision support, must be available.
  3. Production sequencing
    The scheduling logic must generate schedules using logic defined by the user.The schedules produced must be consistently equal to or better than those that the Scheduler can produce “manually”. This allows the Scheduler and Production Management to build trust in the schedules produced.The automation of the scheduling process must reduce the Scheduler’s manual workload and allow the Scheduler to produce and compare multiple schedules, supporting improved decision making.The availability of a digital twin allows the Scheduler switch from using manual methods to using a formal system tool which reflects the factory’s current status and projected loading.

2.    The implementation of method and / or process changes

The automation of the scheduling process and resulting ability to generate accurate schedules in minutes, supports method and process changes such as:

  • Introduction of daily, or more frequent, scheduling
  • Reductions in frozen zones.
  • Improved co-ordination with customers and suppliers.

All of which result in the generation of improved production schedules.

These key changes can be understood as – “The Scheduler, together with Production Management, making use of a formal system to manage production loading and sequencing”. This in contrast to the use of informal systems, manual decision making and use of expediting.

The cumulative impact of these changes results in the generation of more effective and efficient production schedules, improved customer service, improved use of resources, reduced stock requirements and the generation of actual benefits listed in the many case studies reported.

Future changes in advanced scheduling solutions

We can already see changes being introduced into operations and the supply chain.

1.    Source of the Routing data

Taking the routing data from the design solution e.g. the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solution, and not from the ERP solution.

This is necessary to ensure that the scheduling solution works with an accurate and complete representation of the desired manufacturing process together with details of all constraints that apply.

This change reduces the need to maintain redundant data and reduces administration expenses.

2.    Customer order scheduling

It is already possible to test customer demand (requested quotes or actual orders) against the current production schedule, on receipt of the demand.

This might require the running of a min-MRP process to immediately consider both capacity and material availability at all levels in the BOM.

This improves customer service levels e.g. faster response and more accurate delivery date promises. It may also lead to further reductions in stocks because of faster reaction to actual demands.

Conclusion

The implementation of advanced scheduling technology can deliver significant improvements to the company supply chain in the areas of customer service and stock holding.

The implementation and use of an advanced scheduling solution requires that the company switch to using formal systems to manage production and scheduling activities to generate the desired benefits.

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