Just being able to import your production schedule is not enough. You need to be able to edit and change it on the fly. This post is about:
- The shortcomings of production planning in an ERP
- How other solutions in which your schedule can be imported, but can’t be edited once it’s there
- How most people use an ERP scheduling feature or don’t
- How SensrTrx solves these problems
Most ERP scheduling systems are really advanced and complicated, but despite the complexity, they still do really awesome things. The reality is that most companies don’t use those awesome things because it takes a lot of data to do and make right. Think setup data, factory floor data, knowing exact cycle times, scrap rates. The data needed can make those awesome possibilities not worth the effort.
Most realize the immense effort required to take full advantage of an ERP system is more trouble than it’s worth. This is part of the reason for the use of SensrTrx on the floor, to fill in the gaps and provide visibility and connectivity, without a lot of those extra time and resources.
As part of that solution, production planning and scheduling become a major focus.
Four Production Schedule Scenarios
Manufacturers typically fall into four categories of scheduling.
1. The company has an ERP, but completely ignores the scheduling feature due to the complexity of trying to make it work, and if it does work, the details are so specific the schedule is impossible to maintain.
2. The company has an ERP and uses the schedule, but as a draft. Supervisors or planners take the schedule and modify it to fit their needs.
3. There is no ERP in place, and the manufacturer uses pen and paper or Excel as a means of creating a schedule.
4.They may have an ERP, but even if they don’t, the manufacturer uses demand and sales forecasting to create a schedule.
In all four instances, the process of creating a schedule could be made much simpler. We’ll go into detail, explaining scenarios of each and how those processes could be improved.
Scenario 1: Ignores the Scheduling Option in the ERP
In this case, the manufacturer has an ERP system, but when they decide to create a production schedule, it’s so specific, it’s borderline ridiculous. For example, the schedule says the production run for a coffee cup needs to start on May 5 at 1:22 pm and run for exactly 16 seconds to meet demand.
That’s bonkers! Manufacturers don’t run down to the second. It’s simply not feasible to schedule every second. A shift-based production goal would be more obtainable and realistic.
Or, in some cases, they don’t use the scheduling option within the ERP because it doesn’t fit within their business model. (This particular use case could also apply to our cheesecake friend referenced in scenario 3.)
But, ignoring the schedule is not the right option either, as it has the ability to provide a lot of value and decent suggestions on what you should make and when.
Which poses a conundrum.
Scenario 2: Uses the Production Schedule, but Only as a Rough Cut Draft
This next example is probably more in line with what most manufacturers do regarding scheduling, and more in line with reality.
Most people use the scheduling system in the ERP, not to an exact science, but as a rough cut schedule. They know they need to hit a general number and will need to produce, in relative terms, to that number to meet demand. The rough cut schedule is usually edited to be useable by a particular person, a planner, supervisor.
When the planner does edit the schedule, it’s either done in the ERP, or more likely than not printed out and distributed to people on the line as work orders, jobs, or tickets, with added detail.
Whatever the term you want to use, there is one thing you can’t argue with, it’s a very tedious, manual process.
Let’s use an example and say you’re making a coffee cup, but that coffee cup can be made on 10 different injection molding machines throughout the factory. You don’t want to take the effort to get the ERP to tell you exactly which machine the coffee cup should be made on, at what time, and for how long, but you know you need to make 100 coffee cups during that shift to meet demand, which can be done on any of those 10 lines.
So, your job as the planner is to manually select line 6 to produce 20 of the purple coffee cups, 20 blue coffee cups on line 10, 20 green coffee cups on line 2, and so forth. It’s your job to take the schedule from the ERP, “rough cut” that schedule to fit your needs, and dole out the work order, job, or ticket across the machines that can make the same product. Sounds like a lot of work, right?
Production Scheduling Doesn’t Have to Complicated
We realized there was this gap of usability in an ERP system for most manufacturers, excluding the 1% who use the ERP within the full scope of its capabilities. Which resulted in the building of a scheduling and work management module within SensrTrx.
The goal was to fill that gap by letting the ERP do what the ERP does well, maintaining the order of the floor and creating the rough cut schedule. The SensrTrx module goes a step further by allowing the planner or supervisor to bring that schedule into SensrTrx and then, do the load-leveling on the Kanban board in the system.
By allowing the planner to communicate what to work on and when, electronically, to the line supervisor or operator, planning the day’s schedule (or shift) becomes that much easier.
Scenario 3: No ERP System, Plans Schedule with Excel Spreadsheets
This scenario is a big one. There’s this whole other group of manufacturers who don’t have an ERP system and create the schedule by hand.
No ERP system, say it ain’t so!
While it may sound like a nightmare to you, we have a customer who makes cheesecakes (mouthwatering, we know!), and the use of a schedule within an ERP system doesn’t work for the structure of their business.
They produce based on the demand from their customers, whether it’s a grocery store or restaurant. The cheesecakes are made based on the previous day’s orders. Once they produce enough cheesecakes to fill that day’s demand, they close up shop until the next day, and so forth.
In this case, an ERP scheduling system wouldn’t work because they’re producing cheesecakes on a day to day basis and cannot plan out demand more than a day in advance.
For those that don’t have an ERP or choose not to use the ERP scheduling system, such as the case of our yummy cheesecake customer, Excel spreadsheets are often the “planner” of choice.
Now, if you’ve seen our content before, you know we HATE the thought of a manual, tedious process such as in the case of an Excel spreadsheet, and could be replaced with a more efficient system. If something can be made simpler and more efficient (which is definitely not the case of Excel), why not use that?
This delicious cheesecake marker tracks their customer’s orders in an Excel spreadsheet. At the end of every day, they total up the orders, track how many strawberry, chocolate, or plain cheesecakes need to be made, and that becomes the schedule for tomorrow and so forth.
Well, until they started using SensrTrx.
Scenario 4: Bypasses the ERP and Uses Demand and Sales Forecasting
Then, there’s this whole other group of manufacturers who may or may not have an ERP system, but decide to use demand and sales forecasting to calculate how much of each product they need to make a day, often set as takt times. The schedule, in this case, is basically a shift level or day-long takt time.
For example, if you need to make 100 coffee cups a shift or 20 coffee cups in 5 hours, you can import that goal into SensrTrx and track against it.
The Moral of the Story: All Manufacturers Need a Editable Schedule
No matter the scenario, all manufacturers have a schedule. It doesn’t matter what they produce or how. It doesn’t matter if they’re a discrete or process manufacturer. Whether you make airplanes and plan out production months in advance or make cheesecakes and produce based on daily demand. Every manufacturer has a schedule, in some form, whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet or an ERP system.
But, as we’ve seen, there’s a huge problem with current production scheduling systems. Whether you use Excel or an ERP system, we’re guessing that it’s difficult to maintain and even more difficult to change on the fly.
The schedule needs to be importable and usable.