Use Excel to plan production?


Many important decisions in companies are made based on calculations and models calculated on Excel sheets. In this article we look at the use of this spreadsheet.

Excel is great. It simplifies the creation of datasets and calculations by allowing you to export the results in an easy-to-use format. It can also be used by anyone, anyone can start using it and become productive quickly. It is therefore not surprising that it is the analytical software to which a large part of companies turn, using it for everything from planning to reporting.

However, using this program has hidden costs, Excel is flexible because it allows you to create and organize your own file without rules and without standards: any cell can be linked to any other cell, which leads to the risk of having extremely complex and articulated files, which only the author is able to interpret.

This aspect is not serious for small calculations, but already simple models risk rising and becoming “multi-ply monsters”. You may not realize it but probably many Excel templates you are dealing with have an invisible and huge back-end where it is easy to make mistakes but difficult to maintain and correct, to the point that small variations can require entire days of work and that often only some people know and know how to modify and fully use the template.


5 questions to understand how complicated your Excels are

There are 5 questions that allow you to understand the complexity of the Excel file structure:

  1. How are you handling the different versions of the model and data?
  2. Given an output model used in the last 3 years, how easy/difficult is it to replicate?
  3. How many people understand the model to the point of being able to make significant changes to the logic in less than 4 hours?
  4. How easy is it to verify that input data is up to date and correct?
  5. Are the model results comparable with external information?
  6. What recognized standards and processes have you adopted in building Excel models?
  7. Can it be shown that the results it produces are correct?

They probably won’t be, and if you think they are, you probably haven’t fully understood what the question entails. The issue is serious to the point that you could be making critical business decisions based on incorrect information. The risk is that these spreadsheets will cost a lot.


Schedule production with Excel?

Better not. Taking care of production planning with Excel isn’t a great idea… but why? Excel files are great tools, but to plan the production of an entire manufacturing company, it is best to use specific software, designed and made specifically for this purpose. APS programs are able to transform the manual planning carried out through Excel and Project by elevating it to a digital level. These tools allow you to schedule the entire production quickly, taking into account constraints, priorities, meeting between materials, having the entire plan and related KPIs under control thanks to effective graphics.


How to replace Excels and plan digitally

Today it is possible to use advanced and specific tools, developed and refined by software houses for decades: Supply Chain Planning (or SCP) software. These tools allow the production planning department to take a considerable step and relieve human resources from repetitive tasks with low added value, leaving them free to devote themselves to solving critical and strategic issues. Find out how an APS solution can help your company evolve by clicking here, or learn more about the risks of continuing to plan production with Excel by clicking here.


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