Achieve proactive production with an advanced planning system

Advanced planning systems (APS) can help address supply chain challenges

By Justin Newell August 24, 2022
Courtesy of: Inform Software

Advanced Planning System Insights

  • Supply chain disruptions and cyberattacks have caused many issues for discrete manufacturers needing their parts.
  • One solution that manufacturers use for increased flexibility and fortitude is an advanced planning system (APS).
  • Advanced planning systems are able to use artificial intelligence (AI) to help with scheduling, as well as working in tandem with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to help provide the most insight possible to help alleviate the effects of supply chain issues.

Discrete manufacturers, i.e., makers of things that are made up of parts, have faced their share of challenges over the past two years. From supply chain disruptions and labor shortages to increased cyberattacks and heightened sustainability pressures, their need to be agile and resilient has never been greater. One solution that manufacturers turn to for increased flexibility and fortitude is an advanced planning system. Incorporating leading-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), operations research, fuzzy logic and proprietary algorithms, these solutions are leveraging digital optimization and positioning manufacturers to achieve better management of supply chain, workforce, and other ever-changing market challenges.

Understanding how today’s sophisticated APS solutions are supporting proactive production planning in the context of today’s market conditions is important for all those charged with overseeing plant and production processes.

Courtesy of: Inform Software

Courtesy of: Inform Software

State of the market

In its 2022 Manufacturing Industry Outlook, Deloitte reported projections based on the Oxford Economic Model which anticipate gross domestic product (GDP) growth in manufacturing of 4.1% for 2022. This growth will not, however, come without its pain points. Currently, there are many hurdles to overcome.

On the workforce front, there is a record number of unfilled jobs which is expected to limit higher productivity and growth. Deloitte estimated that by 2030, there will be a shortfall of 2.1 million skilled jobs, with its survey finding that 38% of executives have made attracting new workers their top priority for the production workforce in 2022, followed closed by retention (31%) and reskilling (13%).

Supply chain problems are not expected to ease up in 2022. The war in the Ukraine, truck driver shortages, port congestion, sourcing bottlenecks, and increased demand for omnichannel (i.e., e-commerce, cross-border ecommerce, retail, and wholesale) coverage are all creating added pressures on manufacturers.

For all these reasons, achieving plant and production process optimization will be critical, something understood by many executives. In its aforementioned survey, Deloitte found that in 2022, 45% of manufacturing executives surveyed expected further increases in their operational efficiencies stemming from investments in industrial Internet of Things (IoT) that connect machines and automate processes.

Additionally, we will see manufacturers investing in private 5G networks that further enable automation and factory floor intelligence that supports integrated and optimized operations.

Market conditions causing potential problems

Challenges arising from current market conditions are causing machine and system manufacturers to experience production floor challenges. In tracking inventory and sustaining quality levels, the challenges are seen in achieving on-time production schedules and accurate schedules. The ability to maintain control over construction, production, procurement and assembly processes, concurrent with preventing bottlenecks, has also been hindered.

Further, even simple lead time scheduling to address growing order volumes and planning against limited capacities has become problematic and is beyond the abilities of conventional enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and production planning systems (PPS).

To thrive, manufacturers will need to achieve more agile and resilient systems which empower them with digital data access and transparency that assists in optimized production planning, scheduling, order prioritization, and digital workforce management.

Courtesy of: Inform Software

Courtesy of: Inform Software

Benefits of advanced planning and scheduling

Unlike conventional planning systems, advanced planning and scheduling (APS) systems optimize planning by leveraging AI and smart algorithms. This is particularly important for mechanical and plant engineers who must continually plan and manage sales, procurement, production, construction and specialized assembly divisions in a complete and flexible manner. Used as an add-on to existing ERP systems, APS provides full transparency across all production processes and digital decision-making support to address supply chain disruptions and other “what if” scenarios.

With an advanced planning system, customer orders are coordinated with construction orders and supplies to achieve dynamic, intelligent planning even under the most complex and challenging of circumstances. Conventional systems are limited in their ability to solve the problems associated with a high volume of orders, with little or no access to critical data within the system to achieve intelligent production planning.

Conversely, an APS system can not only manage the data in an ERP system but also provide high precision production control to deliver planning that accounts for limited capacities; delivers complete transparency across all production processes; provides early interception of critical parts problems; and uses simulation for effective decision-making in the production planning process. All information sources are centrally linked in one system that displays short-term changes in real time and presents an instant comparison of all project participants.

Time-sensitive tasks are flagged by the system’s early warning alerts accompanied by automatically-generated and prioritized proposed actions.

Applying an advanced planning system, a synchronization of all production processes (e.g., parts  and materials procurement) and evaluation of key data can be achieved. This can also provide a cross-divisional synchronization of all delivery dates with related market and region requirements. This synchronization, in turn, enables the effective management of unplanned events to keep order delivery dates on schedule.

Courtesy of: Inform Software

Courtesy of: Inform Software

An advanced planning system helps in the reduction of manufacturing downtime, order processing times, and excess stocks. Shorter lead times are supported through the system’s dynamic scheduling and its data-based recommendations help manufacturers make better outsourcing and overtime decisions to optimize operations and ultimately lower costs.

When it comes to workforce management, an advanced planning system provides intelligent short- and long-term shift planning which can accommodate unexpected changes such as staff absences or material delays. Shift assignments can be made with a few clicks and shift models can be defined to reflect a manufacturer’s specific qualification or reasons for absences.  As for sustainable operations, in addition to supporting paperless processes, by promoting vastly improved resource management and intelligent planning, the APS system enables manufacturers to optimize their inventories and minimize waste, reduce unnecessary warehousing energy consumption, and achieve efficient utilization of their production line machinery.

Today’s APS systems can be easily interfaced with conventional ERP/PPS systems and can be applied across multiple production facilities and locations.

Even in today’s turbulent times with unprecedented supply chain disruptions, manufacturers that deploy AI-driven APS systems are realizing measurable improvements in production planning and scheduling. From doubling their production orders and achieving significantly shorter lead times, to achieving as much as 70% reduction in rush orders, the benefits are evident.

Those manufacturers that are leveraging the APS’ advanced technologies like AI and mathematical algorithms to calculate optimum production schedules by using all of the relevant data from their ERP, their resource management solution, and their existing capacity visibility, can gain full transparency that provides a complete overview of their production. This is essential in achieving optimized planning and scheduling.

Author Bio: Justin Newell is chief operating officer at Inform Software Corporation.