When analyzing the effectiveness of any APS system, it is very important to make sure your factory takes a systematic approach. In addition to the requirement of having up-to-the-minute visibility of factory floor production, you must validate that the schedule is working as implemented.
Too often, a project to obtain production information from the factory floor falls into the category of “labor time tracking” or simply a “data collection system.” In other words, the management decision is focused specifically upon improving the accuracy and timeliness of the accounting data. Today this is considered more of an “old school” approach to obtaining useful information from the production process.
Beyond the labor and WIP production reporting, is the recognition by manufacturing management that information systems need to be placed onto the factory floor. They want a paperless electronic approach that ties the operators into the management systems and enables the operator to have interaction on a job-by-job basis with a factory floor production execution system. Beyond the accounting information, is the real need to understand where to find the areas of improvement. And use this information from the floor to identify the problem areas and make this system part of the continuous improvement process to a leaner facility.
One of the nice parts of having an interactive paperless factory floor system (Manufacturing Execution System or MES), is that accurate start and stop times can be easily recorded along with other activities (or unexpected down time events) that might affect the production process. For example, the amount of wait time, or bottlenecks, between operations can easily be identified and subsequently removed. Another example is the capability to more effectively track asset up/down time or availability and other OEE measurements. Downtimes can be classified by resource, part and employee for better understanding of the source problem that will help point to process improvement activities.
How then, does this expansion in the vision of the factory floor data collection process impact an APS implementation?
The APS system is a forecast of job activities with projected start and stop times for each operational step of all the schedule jobs. However, too often the scheduling department and production management have no tracking of the performance of the scheduled activities, often referred to as compliance to the schedule. That is, no one knows if the projected job’s activities actually started on time and ended when they were scheduled. And, in addition to finding the difference in scheduled time start/stop attainment, is having a system that can help capture the underlying reason for non-compliance. Was it due to unrealistic production rates of the operations (routing) or was there an unexpected down time event?
When a facility has a factory floor system that can go beyond simple collection of accounting data, a company can immediately take steps to improve the process.
First, it is a good idea to compare the scheduled time from the APS with the actual start time for a compliance to the schedule. Daily validation of the scheduled start times is probably the easiest way to check out your compliance to the schedule. You can produce an electronic dispatch list. That is a “to do” list at the beginning of the day and then track it against the actual start times for each of the most used and busiest resources on the floor.
Second, it should go without saying, that you must have an electronic method of distributing the scheduled activities on demand when the scheduling person finishes with the scheduling task. And remember that the scheduling task might not only be at the beginning of the day. If an unexpected event occurs like lack of raw material or machine break down, then the APS can produce a new optimal schedule at that time. And once the best schedule is produced, potentially by evaluating several different APS scenarios, then this schedule, in the form of a dispatch list, must be distributed electronically to everyone on the floor in order to be useful. This, too, is another feature of a paperless MES system that is not provided in the older data collection systems.
In summary, when looking into a project to collect data from the floor, think about expanding your vision beyond just accounting information. Look to a paperless MES system that can provide your accounting staff with accurate and timely quantities and improved labor time tracking, but also be the backbone for an information system that can help the production control, materials, engineering departs and, of course, the scheduling departs…especially when they are looking into a new APS system.
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