The world of manufacturing has seen various technological changes ever since the industrial era, but as the world becomes more complex and demanding to navigate, so does the manufacturing process.
This is especially true in industries such as the engineering industry, where precision is a constant and delivery of excellence is expected. In large scale operations where efficiency is prioritised, quality may be compromised. On the flipside, over-commitment to quality may see the company fail to meet deadlines or produce the quantity demanded by the client.
To strike a delicate balance and ensure all processes are running smoothly, good production scheduling systems must be implemented. But what exactly is production scheduling all about?
Production Scheduling in Context
Production Scheduling is a fundamental aspect of manufacturing and is often tedious and complex, with various considerations every step of the way. Factors such as time constraints, resource limitations and lack of production tools can also severely hinder the manufacturing process.
There are a few aspects crucial to production scheduling, namely Planning, Routing, Scheduling and Dispatching. We will explain them briefly here to outline where potential errors may occur.
Planning refers to the preparation process involving charts, budgeting and systemisation. Experienced manufacturing companies such as Volkswagen, Siemens or Samsung Electronics usually have a standard operating procedure for the planning stage, although that varies with each project.
Next is Routing, which is the route map a product will follow from raw materials to production. Essentially, it is the step-by-step flow of the process of manufacturing, which ensures all products are of the same standard and are consistent in quality. The economy of resource usage and time efficiency is vital in this step, as it saves time for troubleshooting and allows manufacturers to focus on quality control without worrying about meeting production quotas.
Afterwards, the (actual) scheduling begins, where dates and times are introduced. The use of manufacturing scheduling, operation scheduling and detailed scheduling to set deadlines for tasks is key to achieving proper workflow. That way the planner can observe how far behind or ahead the manufacturing team is in relation to key milestones and adjust the processes based on the data. This helps in meeting client expectations as well.
Finally, dispatching begins. Dispatching is simply the execution of all the plans laid out in the previous 3 steps. This means actual production where tools and machinery will execute the plans laid out by utilising the resources allocated in the planning phase, strictly following the route map laid out in the routing phase, to hit deadlines set during the scheduling phase.
Challenges of Production Scheduling
Despite the thorough nature of production scheduling, the process still contains much room for errors. Due to the stressful deadlines and pressure, as well as the risk of machinery breaking down or lack of manpower, it can be difficult to run a smoothly-driven production schedule.
Classic problems include:
- Urgent or priority orders
- Shortage of resources or manpower
- Shorter delivery lead time
- Equipment breakdown
- Equipment constraints
- Any unforeseen circumstance
Traditionally, it has been tough to juggle between manufacturing priorities and build capacity, let alone deal with practical scheduling problems. The ability to cope largely depends on the amount of equipment available for use and allocation of manpower, as well as capabilities of the technology to produce in the most optimised manner.
However, with advances in systems engineering and computer technology, businesses can turn to software solutions to their production scheduling problems. After all, maximising efficiency is easier with the aid of technology, specifically Advanced Production Scheduling software (also known as APS or AS for short).
Benefits of Advanced Production Scheduling
Being a computer software, APS simplifies things by having detailed templates and schedules built-in in the program. Master schedules and route maps are easy to access and use, and can be stored for future reference.
APS can also be integrated with MRP (Material Requirements Programs) to coordinate resource allocation, optimising the supply chain. MRPs are programs that control inventory and the placing of orders for items. They are essentially programs that are solely dedicated to resource management.
The advanced features found in APS such as visualisation, automated date-scheduling and constraint modelling also allow for more precision and fewer mistakes in the manufacturing process.
Business owners and manufacturers can save time and effort on routine tasks and focus on the more important aspects of their business. Additionally, the added productivity and efficiency means a likely increase in profits and ROI (Return on Investment).
Limitations of Advanced Production Scheduling
While advanced scheduling and various software have been useful in making the life of a planner easier, they are not devoid of issues.
Production scheduling software, depending on the type of software might have a buggy interface or a complex UI (User Interface), which may be difficult for planners to navigate. The program is also still reliant on a competent planner, as feeding the APS incomprehensible data will not help in optimising the supply chain.
Some programs also lack functionality in certain areas, as they are too specialised. Software compatibility issues may also arise if the program is not able to sync with the current ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software that the company is using.
Thankfully, there exists an APS that does not suffer from these problems. It has a simple UI which is easy to understand and intuitive workflow. The full package contains all features and is fully functional, and it is compatible with many ERPs in the market. Integration issues can also be ironed out with the software provider.
SIMATIC IT Preactor: Advanced Scheduling
With support for order prioritisation, split production batches, order processing and due-date negotiation, as well as all the standard features of APS software, SIMATIC IT Preactor is a solid option for those interested in harnessing the benefits of advanced production scheduling.
This includes material handling, constraint modelling, assembly process visualisation and more. For specific details, click here to find out more.
To sum it up, APS has been a godsend for the manufacturing industry, simplifying the production scheduling process and improving supply chain efficiency. Therefore, choosing the right APS is crucial to solidifying a successful manufacturing operation.