How important is production scheduling today?

Published on behalf of:
Frederico Madrid
CEO at Antal Munnyal
Antal Munnyal is a certified Smart Partner in Mexico dedicated to implementing Planning, Scheduling, and Manufacturing Execution Systems
www.antalm.com.xm

In our uncertain world today, factories are facing high levels of variability from both the external market demand and availability of labor resources.  In view of this uncertainty, Production Scheduling systems are of tremendous importance.

At the end of the day, the last decision made before production is always related to scheduling, i.e., determining what will be produced and how the scarce resources of equipment and personnel will be used.  These decisions are mission critical, having a significant impact on the financial results of the company.

Even during routine times, production scheduling can be a challenging task. But with unprecedented supply chain disruptions and huge swings in demand, we now face rapid changes to factors that impact the resources required to execute production.  The speed with which a manufacturer can identify these changes and effectively respond to them is key to financial stability.

Take an American football game. Both teams enter the game with detailed game plans, but during the game each team works to find the best way to respond to the actions of their opponent. The winner of the contest is often not the team that enters the game with the best game plan, but rather the team that is most successful at adjusting their game plan and responding to unexpected actions on the field.

In a similar way, manufacturing plants put together a plan that coordinates all their production resources to maximize utilization while fulfilling delivery commitments. But that plan must be constantly adapted to changes in both the external and internal environment.

The production schedule encompasses two main challenges. The first is to synchronize all the available resources to obtain the best utilization while complying with delivery commitments. The second is to maintain high flexibility to quickly respond to unforeseen events, such as demand changes, machine breakdown, lack of personnel or delays in raw material deliveries.

Synchronization of resources is complex, since it must consider various factors. Dependencies between operations, alternative machines and routes, availability of finite resources (such as molds or personnel with specific skill sets), synchronization with maintenance activities, minimizing non-productive time when there is sequence dependent setup or cleanup involved – all of these add complexity that simply is not possible to optimize without systematic support.

A production scheduling system such as Siemens Opcenter APS offers companies an important competitive advantage, differentiating them from companies that do not have similar tools. As manufacturers face new market uncertainty, leveraging a production scheduling and planning system is no longer an option – it is a requirement.

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