Written by Michelle Sullivan, Director of Business Development & Client Services, iFactory
As the manufacturing sector grows increasingly more competitive, executives and plant managers are faced with the daunting challenge of somehow increasing productivity and/or reducing operating costs while maintaining quality. Where is one to find hidden efficiencies in this world of already razor-thin margins? The answer: scheduling.
Scheduling is the new frontier where savings abound in the form of increased throughput, lower inventory levels, shortened cycle times, lower energy consumption, and improved on-time delivery performance to name a few. Inefficient planning and scheduling is often the cause of the gap between required and actual plant performance. Inadequate scheduling can cause high lead times due to synchronisation problems or the occurrence of dynamic bottlenecks resulting in delays on quoted deliverytimes among other costly inefficiencies. Optimised schedules improve production KPI performance which filters up to high level KPIs across the organisation.
Brief History of Scheduling
Scheduling has improved over the last 30 years gradually closing the communication gap between the ERP system and shop floor with each successive generation of technology. This lineage began with simpler Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) systems located at the ERP layer which evolved into more robust Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) solutions that interfaced with Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). More recently, Detailed Production Scheduling (DPS) systems, based at the MES layer, provided shop floor data, enabling communication and closing the feedback loop between the ERP system and the shop floor.
Despite these improvements, scheduling has remained limited by two key criteria: the inability to 1) react to unforeseen events in real-time and 2) analytically calculate schedules optimised according to the most important business targets at that given time.
Up until now, scheduling systems have relied on heuristic (rules-based) algorithms that simulate human schedulers, limiting their solutions to a set of predefined rules which are based on the scheduler’s limited experience. However, reality on the shop floor doesn’t often follow these rules, and unforeseen events and complexity of constraints often render these schedules obsolete. This requires time-intensive human intervention to reprogram the rules and generate new schedules that result in costly disruptions to production and delays in delivery schedules.
Next Generation Production Scheduling Has Arrived
iFactory’s patented scheduler, iFRP®, represents the next generation of production planning and scheduling that addresses the shortcomings of its predecessors. This innovative breakthrough technology delivers optimal schedules in real time based on the unique optimisation targets of a given complex production environment. iFRP® simulates the factory itself and analytically calculates an optimal solution under real-time conditions, including any unforeseen breakdowns or constraints such as dynamic bottlenecks.
This revolutionary functionality is possible as iFRP® is not tied to a set of predefined rules; instead it analytically explores possible schedules, choosing an optimal schedule based on the optimisation levers, thus unearthing hidden efficiencies. This advance enables manufacturers to carry out schedules and realise previously unattainable gains in performance and efficiency. Furthermore, it empowers manufacturers to proactively explore “what-if” scenarios and develop new and innovative schedules and production layouts.
Advances in production scheduling and planning have transformed it from an “afterthought” into a game-changer that enables competitive advantages in cost, flexibility, and quality. iFactory’s real-time intelligent scheduler, iFRP®, provides companies with the ability to focus on their core competencies and high level KPI dashboards drilling down all the way down to the factory floor KPIs. Next generation scheduling is the answer for companies looking to improve control of their production environment while unlocking hidden productivity and efficiency gains.