What does APS really mean… Advanced Planning and Scheduling or Automation Production System?

Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS), that is using computer algorithms tied together with an easy to use Graphical User Interface, is being more and more recognized as the premier method of finding and improving the manufacturing production process.  This Lean Manufacturing method involves the extraction of current and easily accessibleinventory and production information (MRP data) brought together with some additional information to formula the best, fastest and lowest cost way to produce and deliver goods to customers on a timely basis.

At FACTIVITY we have found that knowing where to find important “demand” data and how best to integrate an APS to an existing MRP system is of course the job of a good consultant.  And with this added information, schedules can start to reflect the demand in a way not seen before.  For example,sales orders can be seen reflected in a production schedule tied visually to specific final goods production and their associated chain of underlying manufacturing order…in a truly “pegged” environment.  Raw material can be easily grouped for better use of set-up time without hurting on-time deliveries.  Evaluations of scenarios of weekend “overtime” can be easy evaluated to reflect only the necessary assets required to satisfy the demand, minimizing overtime costs and maximizing profitability.
However, once the schedule has been produced, it affords an opportunity that is missed by many companies…controlling the schedule through the entire production cycle.  Tracking the schedule for accountability is of course known as “compliance” and is too often not part of the measure of a successful APS implementation.  The APS will project or forecast the best possible approach to using resources, but what really does happen once the schedule is distributed to the factory floor.  Are the orders being run in the exact sequence scheduled and starting at the times projected, or has something interfered with the plan?  And in a larger sense, what about measuring the non-production or down time across all assets.  This Availability measure (commonly part of an OEE analysis) can provide useful insight into floor improvements.  But simply knowing the down time by resource (machine) is too simple a solution that will not produce the metrics to help improve the production process.  You need to capture the reason(s) and worker(s) and part(s) that were present at the downtime occurrence.  That is… it is also important to capture the “what, who and when” not just the “Availability” time.
Using an Automation Production System commonly referred to as an MES, will provide a system for compliance to measure the effectivenessof the scheduling system and promote ease in tracking labor and OEE data.  Remember though, an Automation Production System requires a few important system functions that can help save time, money and continue to “lean out” your production process well beyond the APS functionality.  We will review these key components in the next few articles from FACTIVITY.
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