Empowering the Planner

By JoaoLaner

“Not knowing that it was impossible, he went there and did it.” This adaptation of a great quote from the French thinker Jean Cocteau still seems to be the only modus operandi for companies large and small across the industrial spectrum — especially when it comes to planning. The idea behind the quote is to promote willpower and motivation. But is mere willpower and motivation enough to succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace?

Observing manufacturing companies of different sizes, cultural characteristics and industries, one often sees that PPC (Production Planning and Control) is a neglected department. It may be viewed as a mere performer of sometimes bureaucratic routines. In fact, this department is often desperately seeking new ways to deal with daily challenges.

And the challenges in terms of planning and scheduling are legion. Overstock, delayed orders, low production capacity, poor planning and scheduling processes, incomplete data, lack of materials and delays in supply, preventive and corrective maintenance — the list goes on. Add to this interruptions of all kinds in an extremely dynamic environment, cultural issues, conflicts and internal disputes, and you have the makings of an impossible circumstance.

Yet, ignoring the impossible nature of the problem, there goes the planner with his or her spreadsheet, seeking a magical solution to this highly complex situation. And sometimes, yes, the planner gets something — with a lot of sweat and dedication, and a lot of macros — with the super spreadsheet, which the planner alone knows how to navigate.

This spreadsheet might account for a significant portion of the variables involved. Using the spreadsheet approach, it takes days to process data and arrive at a single scenario that can be made available to the plant to run. But guess what? The scenario is no longer current! Circumstances have changed, and the proposed scenario (that was less than ideal in the first place) becomes invalid, resulting in the scrapping of the team’s work. And there goes the planner, running everywhere, trying to minimize the damage that in some ways is already inevitable.

The result is questions and observations like:

“Why can’t PPC generate a precise schedule?”

“Orders are increasingly late!”

“Our scheduling process is increasingly time consuming and ineffective.”

Among other things, there is a loss of credibility of the department, which is being ravaged on all sides for not being able to deal with its daily responsibilities.

And a vicious cycle ensues:

  1. PPC cannot act decisively;

  2. Results are bad;

  3. Other areas are impacted;

  4. PPC falls into disrepute;

  5. A growing lack of confidence causes PPC to act even more indecisively.

PPC is strategic and fundamental to a company’s outcomes, yet it ends up losing importance and losing priority in the budget and investment projects.

That’s the challenge; what to do to reverse this situation? What steps are necessary to get out of this vicious circle?

The goal is to effectively empower the planner, with tools that enable him or her to understand different possibilities and act predictively and analytically, rather than being purely operational and reactive.

Generating and understanding different scenarios and making decisions with agility are essential to obtaining good results. The way to achieve this end is through an APS (Advanced Planning and Scheduling) tool.

By empowering the planner, APS may be a company’s important first step in digitalization. The task may have been impossible before, but with APS it can be done, in less time, with a better analysis of different scenarios, resulting in the best decision and effectively generating desired outcomes.

To empower the planner, get started with an APS tool that can effectively help the planner react quickly to unforeseen events, evaluate multiple what if scenarios, and promote not just good feasible schedules but better interdepartmental communication.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at