Improve production scheduling to increase factory efficiency


The main purpose of production planning is to organise the production of a manufacturing company, in order to carry out customer orders by the date requested by the same. To achieve optimal production scheduling it is important how customer orders are completed as this has significant impacts on profitability and operational efficiency and can also optimise the use of machinery.


Production scheduling with spreadsheets

Many manufacturing companies program their industrial production through age-old methods: spreadsheets or tables, a practice that has major limitations and problems. This situation becomes a real oxymoron when production is carried out using state-of-the-art systems but programmed with these tools, now outdated.
If using these tools still finds some justification within small companies or with relatively simple productions in terms of portfolio size or quantities achieved, the same cannot be said for more innovative, articulated, large or mature companies.


The risks of programming with spreadsheets

Using spreadsheets for production programming leads to isolating information within several and numerous files, and therefore to strongly hindering that virtuous practice which is the sharing of information between different roles and departments. Not only that, the use of Excel or Project means that you cannot update the data to the point that as soon as events occur, the files no longer reflect the business reality. They do not have the ability to do simulations and therefore to propose different future scenarios, limiting the vision of production.


Schedule production with an APS solution

Software known as APS, or Advanced Planning and Scheduling software, uses advanced mathematical algorithms and logic to optimize and simulate production by solving planning and scheduling problems. APS simultaneously consider a set of economic constraints and rules to provide indispensable support to planning and scheduling, as well as decision-making. The benefits that derive from the use of these software are all the greater the more complex the productions are: either because they make a wide variety of products, because they have significant machine changeover times or because the relative market demand has significant variations.
Complex productions therefore derive numerous and considerable benefits from the use of APS solutions and should seriously evaluate these systems. However, there are some differences, depending on the type of production adopted.
As far as serial or continuous production processes are concerned, there are fundamental differences between the two.
Continuous processes, as the name suggests, take place 24 hours a day, seven days a week (excluding downtime due to occasional machinery maintenance) and often require large amounts of time and energy to stop and start the equipment. These processes are often characterized by a high intensity and the savings are potentially considerable.
The stoppage and start-up of machinery used for batch production, on the other hand, can vary significantly depending on the process. They typically take less time to get started


The benefits of Advanced Planning & Scheduling

The benefits of implementing an APS include:

  • More effective demand management;
  • Management of production resources (personnel and machinery);
  • Material management with elimination of missing materials;
  • Greater efficiency of the systems;
  • Improved capacity utilisation;
  • More efficient maintenance planning;
  • Optimal loading of machinery;
  • Forecasting capabilities for future scenarios;
  • Sharing of the unique plan between roles and departments;
  • Continuous update of the plan.

APS is based on a suite of technologies that implement smart manufacturing. “Smart manufacturing” is the application of networked data and information technologies and includes sensors, controls, platforms and advanced models for manufacturing. APS, used to support ERP, is a sophisticated tool that makes the company able to move the limits of its production planning and scheduling.


How to schedule production digitally

Before starting a project aimed at improving production scheduling, it is right to evaluate the business aspects involved and the benefits that would result. There are three main methods to improve production scheduling in a production facility:

  • Perform an analysis to develop standards for operating procedures (also known as SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures) and related staff training. The advantages of this method include standardisation, identification of bottlenecks, reduction of machine changeover times, less complexity in stopping and starting machinery, reduction of non-production times, higher product quality;
  • It is also possible to minimize product changeover times and costs, an aspect that makes a pull-type planning system in which production is started only after receiving the customer’s order more effective;
  • Finally, the simulation capacity of the production process allows us to improve reliability, availability and maintainability.


An APS system helps avoid situations of low productivity and profitability typically due to:

  • poor control of the warehouse with consequent shortage/excess of raw materials and finished products in stock;
  • poor material quality and capacity planning resulting in long lead times and late deliveries;
  • inefficient staff planning resulting in irregular workloads, cost resulting from overtime and discontent.

On top of that, supply chain optimization can also help reduce the risk of stock outs, which often creates downtime. Supply chain optimization and inventory reduction are further explored later in this article.

The good news is that companies have an excellent opportunity to increase the possibilities of ERP and to improve sales forecasts and demand planning, using big data and analytics: APS.


How to improve production scheduling and increase factory efficiency?

Contact our experts who will be happy to answer your questions and advise you on how to improve the way you plan and schedule production today. Request and organize a CyberPlan demo tailored to your company’s needs. One of our professionals will answer your questions and support you in understanding how powerful tools like CyberPlan can support you and your business.

Subscribe to the newsletter to learn more about this article!