In manufacturing, you have to have a schedule to figure out what to make and when all with the goal of delivering on time to your customers. It’s nothing new to the manufacturing world, but how a production schedule is created and distributed could be vastly improved.

And, with SensrTrx, it has.

  • The traditional production planning method in an ERP is too rigid and outdated.
  • Using Excel to create a work schedule is too manual.
  • We saw the downsides of these traditional methods and wanted to change that.
  • The key difference between a production schedule in an ERP or Excel and using SensrTrx to manage the schedule is scheduling now provides organization and real-time communication, distributing the schedule throughout the plant instantly.
  • Learn about the philosophy behind the Schedule and Work Management Module in SensrTrx, designed specifically to help manufacturers deliver on time to customers.

Production Planning Needed an Upgrade

According to Byran Sapot, SensrTrx, CEO, working with manufacturing companies for the last 25 years and seeing how they did production planning really got the gears turning. Why couldn’t the process of creating a production schedule be improved? Over time, he began to notice the same 2 things. At the end of the day, what really matters is being able to:

1. Make a high-quality product at a reasonable cost
2. Deliver on time to your customers

The problem, he observed, wasn’t the lack of schedule. In fact, most manufacturers have an ERP system that produces a schedule, and for those that don’t, production planning is manually done in Excel, but the hyper-focus and rigidity of the schedule is the problem. And for Excel users, it’s the manual aspect that gets cumbersome.

So Sapot sought to create a solution that would work well within SensrTrx, but also utilize the resources manufacturers use on a daily basis – ERP systems and Excel documents.

With SensrTrx, you have a system that tracks in real-time how you’re performing, but if you don’t have the schedule included, you don’t know when each operation is supposed to complete or when the entire product is complete and ready to ship to your customer. How can you truly understand what’s going on in the plant without that visibility?

How can you answer that question without some sort of schedule?

So, we decided at SensrTrx that there needed to be a way to easily get the schedule out of the ERP system or an Excel document. And when that schedule is imported to SensrTrx, you’d need to be able to track against it in real-time in a way that really tells you how you’re doing. And, on top of that, there needed to be an ability to show the operator or the supervisor how they’re doing, letting them know if they were having a good or bad day.

The only way to do that would be to create a schedule that is not rigid, but instead, becomes flexible to meet the changing needs of the plant.

Why Has No One Else Done This?

It’s not so much a matter of others not organizing scheduling in this way because they have. But, everybody focuses on OEE and the efficiency of individual work stations. As illustrated in the book, “The Goal”, that’s the wrong way to look at the plant. Instead, manufacturers should be looking at the plant holistically. How is the plant flowing?

That’s why scheduling, coupled with manufacturing analytics, changes the game.

There’s this misconception that even if you’re high volume, low mix, meaning you make relatively few variations of products, but you make a lot of those products over and over and over again, that you don’t have variation and it’s all going to run the same. But, that’s not the case. What you make every day is not all going to be the same. You’re going to have changeovers. The rates are going to change. The products you make are different. Yes, you have dedicated lines, but there’s always variation in there, always.

And, so doing things based on targets of “What’s the maximum my machine can run at and then measure that?”, it doesn’t make any sense. You have to measure it based on, “What do I need to make to hit my targets? To deliver to my customer?” That’s what I really need to track.

And, that’s why we created a production scheduling module that specifically measures those metrics, paving the way for a new type of approach to production planning.

Production Scheduling Software Evolved Because of One Key Argument

We started SensrTrx 5 years ago with the goal of helping manufacturers get visibility into the plant, and a key metric we focused on was OEE. I thought we could look at OEE at a department level, and it would really provide good information as to how the plant was running, but to be honest, we were wrong.

Even though I built the system with other manufacturing folks that gave design input on it and what they wanted, how we defined and calculated OEE was not really accurate. It didn’t paint the full picture. Rather, what we should have focused on was planned versus actual. How much do we need to make versus how much did we make?

Now, that paints the full picture. It provides visibility into the plant. And that’s exactly why we added the Schedule and Work Management Module to the software.

There are many issues associated with only measuring OEE on individual work stations and how that fits in overall within a manufacturing company. We tend to be very vocal about the fact that OEE is a flawed metric, and many experts even agree OEE is flawed

But, this is why we stress the importance of tracking planned versus action.

For example, a particular line has to make 11 parts an hour. That’s not the maximum that the line could run. In fact, they could probably make 18 or 19. But, 11 parts are what they need to do to deliver on time to their customers so instead, they measure at achieving the goal of making 11 parts per hour.

The thinking behind scheduling within SensrTrx evolved over time which we hope will turn the traditional method of scheduling on its head. Our goal is to meet the demands of manufacturers as they grow.

At the end of the day you need to know how much you’re supposed to make, how much did you make, and if you didn’t hit that goal, why not?

That’s the question we’re trying to answer with our whole product and all that we do. That’s the concept behind everything.

A Good Production Schedule Changes How Manufacturers Achieve Their Goals

We’ve gone over why we believe scheduling needed an overhaul and how the scheduling module came to be, but we haven’t really explained why the traditional way of production planning needed an upgrade, to begin with.

Today, most companies have an ERP system creating a schedule. The ERP will run MRP (material, requirements, planning) that looks at your forecast, sales, and orders already in the system, and then tells you what you need to make to fill those orders, even looking at inventory to see if you have any gaps. It’ll tell you what you need to make, what raw materials you need to buy and tell you when you need to make those.

An ERP system does A LOT. The problem with the suggestions the ERP generates is that they aren’t always realistic, accurate, and only as good as the assumptions or data inside the software.

Every company I’ve ever worked with always has a planner or scheduler that’s looking at that information and then, making decisions about what should be run, when, how much they should actually make.

There’s always a person in the middle doing that work.

On the other side, some manufacturers don’t have an ERP because maybe, it doesn’t fit their business model or they just haven’t bought one, and they’re scheduling in Excel. And, a person is doing that. They’re doing the job of the ERP system. They’re deciding what’s going to be made every day based on demand.

What we wanted to do was digitize, to a certain extent, what that scheduler or planner is doing. Now, this does not take that job away because they’re still doing this stuff. (link) The key difference is they’re now doing it inside of our software rather than following the rigidity of an ERP schedule and manually shuffling paper or doing things in Excel. Scheduling inside of SensrTrx essentially provides organization and real-time communication.

How Does It Work?

The schedule will flow out of the ERP into SensrTrx, and the planner will move things around, making adjustments inside of SensrTrx. Once the schedule is ready, it automatically goes out to the floor, digitally, and people start running those jobs, making products to be delivered to customers, on time.

In the case of Excel, they’re uploading the Excel file into the system, making minor adjustments inside of SensrTrx, and then it follows the same steps by automatically going out to the floor.

See How Tacony Does Production Planning in Real Life

As we talked about previously, what this really does for manufacturers is giving planned versus actual. This was especially helpful in the example of Tacony, a SensrTrx customer. The transparency and organization is providing the ability to say “Here’s what we thought we would do, and here’s what we actually did. Why did we not or why did we hit the numbers?”

You can look at downtime. You can look at speed, quality issues, you know all of those OEE components. This helps to figure out where you have problems and when to work on those.

 The big thing that Tacony talked about was making sure that people know what they need to work on next and making sure they’re working on the right things. If people run out of things to do, they’ll do 1 of 2 things.

1. Work on what’s easy
2. Work on what they think is right

And, a lot of times, those are not what needs to happen next. It’s all based on what’s on the backlog and what needs to be produced to achieve the goal of delivering on time.

Creating a Production Schedule Becomes More Organized and Simpler

The challenge we see manufacturers faced with today is that the ERP tries to be too exact when it comes to scheduling. For example, the ERP will tell you to start this job at 9:04 am, and it should finish at 3:22 and 16 seconds PM. It’s actually ridiculous because it’s never going to happen.

And, why isn’t it going to happen? Fluctuations and dependent events happen, no matter what. To put it bluntly, shit happens.

Our goal is to make the life of the scheduler or planner, and subsequently the operators and management staff, that much simpler and organized. We want to create calm on the floor so that product will be made according to the flexible, adaptable schedule and delivered to customers on time.

And in the future, additional benefits will be gained. Imagine a world where you can look at historical data and see how long it took to make a specific part. Then, you can plan around that historical data.

We’re going to have all of your historical data in SensrTrx and you can look at how long it actually took you to run this specific part last time. We build in capacity planning and inside of the scheduling system, we tell you, “You think you’re going to do this in 5 hours, but you’ve never done it faster than 7.”

The idea is to really give you the informed information you need to make good decisions.

So, essentially, the idea behind the scheduling and work management module is to give planners, schedulers, and really, the entire organization, the ability to easily view, organize, and load level the schedule.

All with the goal of delivering on time to your customers.