Based on an article by Brian Hoey published on July 11th, 2019
Let’s say you’re a production planner at a car factory that manufactures several models. You invest time and effort into a plan that seems to work well, so you’re about to lean back and relax.
But then, all of a sudden, an important client places a huge order. Now you’re frantically trying to reallocate materials and resources as your careful planning goes out the window.
Is there a way to avoid this scenario? Well, advanced planning and scheduling (APS) would be very convenient because it lets you change plans quickly without disrupting the entire production process. How does it work? Let’s find out.
1. APS REDUCES DOWNTIME AND BOOSTS PRODUCTIVITY
One of the main functions of APS is making sure that you don’t waste valuable uptime. First, it creates a clear picture of your factory’s resources and available materials. Then it finds ways to balance demand, capacity and resources. In other works, it prevents your machines from standing idle while waiting for parts. At the same time, your machines will be less likely to break down due to overuse. With APS, production is no longer chaotic: each process has a clearly defined time slot, so downtime is kept to a minimum.
2. APS REDUCES RAW MATERIAL WASTE
In addition to decreasing downtime, APS coordinates sourcing and production scheduling so that raw materials don’t get wasted.
Here’s an example. Let’s imagine a plant where information visibility is low and planning processes are siloized. Procurement specialists have no access to production data, so they’re unable to order the exact amount of materials needed. So the plant is either understocked (which leads to downtime and lost revenue) or overstocked. In the worst case scenario, the “extra” materials are forgotten about entirely, so the plant just buys new materials instead of using up the stored ones.
APS prevents this from happening by letting you oversee the interaction between production scheduling and procurement. The production chain becomes leaner and more cost-optimized.
3. APS CAN PREVENT DISRUPTIONS THANKS TO REAL-TIME PLANNING
Let’s get back to our first example. Without an advanced digital planning infrastructure (this is what APS is, essentially), a sudden increase in demand or a large order from a customer can easily derail even the most careful planning. And since your new plan is created under massive time constraints, it is usually far from being optimal.
The problem is that humans can’t plan in real time. In a new situation, we need time to adapt and consider possible developments. Digital planning tools, on the other hand, let you visualize potential options instantly, so you can plan in real time without causing chaos.
4. APS COMPLEMENTS EXISTING ERP SYSTEMS
There’s a common myth that APS and ERP are just different names for the same thing. But the truth is that they’re complementary processes. ERP (enterprise resource planning) serves to integrate various business processes, while APS specifically deals with the interaction between production and procurement. This is the reason why ERP usually covers long-term goals that require a close integration of multiple different processes, whereas APS is all about planning for shorter time periods (days, weeks, or months). Thus, APS can be seen as a complement to broader functions such as ERP.
5. APS IS A PERFECT FIT FOR INDUSTRY 4.0
If you’re a production planner, you’ve most likely heard about Industry 4.0. Whenever you’re introducing new workflows, technologies or paradigms, you do so with the goal of making your processes succeed in new technological environments. And since APS shines in highly digitized environments, it’s an excellent fit for the digital paradigms of Industry 4.0.
For example, you could install sensors that collect live data from the factory floor and let your APS system use this data to improve predictions and suggest new ways of optimizing your production plans. You can also integrate APS with an automated supply chain, so procurement quantities will be automatically adjusted whenever production plans change. With these developments, production planning expands to incorporate countless new data sources and areas of potential optimization, and human planners can easily adapt their plans to any new circumstances.