If you ask manufacturing systems users, consultants, etc. where the product route is kept, they will tell you that it is kept in the ERP solution.

I would like to propose an alternative home for the routing information. Bear with me while I tell you why.

The current product route

The Manufacturing Engineering personnel develop (or should do) a comprehensive process flow document describing the manufacturing processes that the part number should follow to be manufactured.

Information defined not only includes machines with associated run rates to be used, but also the jigs and fixtures necessary, special tooling, QC processes and other details related to the manufacturing process. Alternate machines that can be used could also be included.

The comprehensive information set is kept in the product lifecycle management (PLM) or equivalent (think Excel when a PLM solution does not exist).

This comprehensive document is then forwarded to an administrative department which enters selected information into the ERP solution as the Product Route.

The ERP route is then used for costing purposes in a Std Costing environment. The Product Route is also copied to become part of a dataset when a works order is opened.

Here are the problems with this approach

The detail found in the ERP routing structure is frequently incomplete, for example:

  1. There is limited ability to handle alternate routing flows.
  2. There is limited ability to handle machine specific run speeds when alternate machines can complete the same process.
  3. Issues like setup matrixes are often not catered for.

If the company is using an APS, they often have to find ways to supplement the Routing detail in the ERP system, read it from another system (MES or PLM) or house it in the APS solution.

If the prime purpose of the routing data structure in the ERP solution is to provide a set of instructions for the works order to use, but they are inaccurate, then one must question the admin effort and associated cost that a company incurs in keeping this data in the ERP solution.

An alternative approach

An alternative approach would be to keep the information in the PLM solution and add the appropriate details to the works order once a work order has been opened in the ERP solution. The source of the detail may be the APS system as only it knows which process route the product will flow because of capacity loading.

The benefit of managing the routing data in this way would be to reduced company administration effort and cost without compromising the ability extract information for control and management purposes.