Production scheduling for food products with a short shelf life provides an interesting challenge when making product to stock is often not a viable option. Here we will look at an example of a food production company, the challenges in scheduling, and the solutions.

The example environment

Let’s use a company that provides salad / vegetable packs to retail chains.

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We recently engaged with a company that wanted to take the journey towards improving operations.

We will describe this company as primarily a job shop but with repeat products, +/-70 production resources, and a product process flow of between 9 – 15 processes per part number for the sector they operate in. Demand mix changes result in floating bottlenecks.

As they had yet to start on their journey there was some confusion and uncertainty about what to do first.

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Measuring customer service in manufacturing industries can be a complex task. If you are lucky and can ship from finished goods, the frequently used customer service measure of OTIF (On Time In Full) is easy to understand and measure.

However, if you must manufacture or assemble the product before you can ship it, the gap between the receipt of the customer order and shipment opens a window in which things may change.

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Books on implementing and using APS Systems are hard to come by and I’ve searched through many product catalogues for a decent one.

Recently I came across the book “Designing, Selecting, Implementing and using APS Systems” by Vincent C.S. Weirs and A (Ton) G. de Kok, printed by Springer.

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The manufacturing environment in South Africa is continually facing a number of external challenges, including a weak economic environment, punishing escalations in electricity tariffs which puts greater pressure on earnings and in certain cases, prolonged strikes by a labour force, which also leads to loss of production.

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What if you didn’t need to hold a morning production meeting? What if you did not have to use management’s time inefficiently to discuss sales priorities, yesterday’s achievements and all the other miscellaneous subjects that arise?

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On a regular basis new concepts such as Digital Twins in Scheduling are introduced.  Forbes Magazine defines the idea as:

“ …a digital twin is a virtual model of a process, product or service. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations.”

Often one is uncertain about whether the new term applies to a particular area, and if it does, what it implies exactly.

In this blog I will cover the concept of a Digital Twin from a scheduling perspective.

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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.

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