What you need to know about APS

Taking the plunge into the APS pool

What you need to know so you don’t get in over your head

This is the second in a series of three articles on scheduling systems.

Walk before you run. This is good advice when it comes to using an Advanced Planning and Scheduling System (APS), as pointed out in the first article of this series about Finite Scheduling.

That article also included a short test to help you determine the best scheduling system for your business.  For example, the quiz will help you determine if incorporating inventory into the finite scheduling logic is an absolute requirement, and whether or not you need to have materials availability as part of the scheduling logic.  In other words, is the value-add part of your business the efficient and effective purchasing of components and sub-assemblies more important than improved floor efficiencies?

So what question should you ask yourself, and what prerequisites should be considered in adding materials in the scheduling logic?  Ask yourself:

  1. Does your production facility produce a great many parts from a small number of raw materials?
  2. Does your supplier deliver in a timely manner?
  3. Are the lead times short on your critical and/or costly materials?

If the answer to these questions is “yes” then you might only require a finite scheduling system.  If not, then you might need to jump in and acquire an APS system that allows for finite scheduling tied to material availability.

Do you really need an APS?

Before you dive in, there are a few things to put in place.  First off, you should have a method of collecting factory floor events in real-time.  It’s important to know when production is starting on a job, which operation of that job is running and associated production counts collected at those operations.  The labor time associated with the production need not be collected, since it is important for job costing, payroll and production improvements (lean manufacturing) which although very important, might not be part of this evaluation.

The reason for having a real-time feedback loop is simple, the criteria for success with any scheduling software system is to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible.  Otherwise, you will lose the value for the factory floor employees.  Too often, schedules are created by expensive, colorful and fast software systems that arrive on the floor with work sequenced at the top of work centers that have been completed by other shifts. This can cause a real disconnect with the production people on the factory floor who need to believe that the new tools are useful and will help them – not confuse them.

Additionally, make sure you know the reasons for stopping production.  By capturing these downtime and problem situations, you can determine if lack of materials is a problem. If so, then you might need to add material visibility and material constraint functionality, which is most often found in APS software solutions.  These high end products, although more costly, have the distinct benefit of checking inventory and providing alerts to potential near-term material problems exposed using realistic finite scheduling logic.

Finally, a simple, less expensive and less time consuming finite scheduling system might work fine even when materials are not taken into consideration.  Consider this: if your material Buyer/Planner has some visibility to the daily finite schedules, then reports can be generated that let him/her know if jobs have moved either forward or backward in time from the planned due dates in the near term horizon.

Job due date shifting beyond the near term can often be compensated with MRP logic.  In the near term, set an alert boundary which highlights any date changes that move more than a specific predetermined number of days.  For example, let’s say the original order is scheduled to be completed by the last day of the month.  Any time the finite scheduler runs, if any job moves more than three days (boundary) then highlight that job, its original date and the new scheduled date. With this date, the buy/planner can make his/her decisions.

When an APS is necessary

Now that you have determined that a finite scheduling system is just not enough because you have material delivery issues and you have a factory floor real-time collection system in place, it’s time to evaluate an APS.  Now you have another set of questions to ask:

  1. Besides capacity and materials, do you have other constraints for example tools or specific labor which must be available at the start or end of a job/operational step?
  2. Does your company’s scheduling person have a requirement for comparing multiple scheduling scenarios using various scheduling rules?
  3. Do you know the key metric that you want an APS to deliver for you?
  4. Do you have more than one person doing the scheduling?
  5. Do you have more than one plant that needs to be scheduled, and does one or more of these plants “feed” another with raw material, components and/or assemblies?

When you answer yes to any of these questions, then it is time to start looking into an APS.  Depending on how you answer the questions above will determine the best type of APS for your factory.  It is important to have a plan before you jump into the APS pool.

For example, you should have a well thought out answer to the following questions:

  1. How will you distribute the schedule to the floor?
  2. How will you update the scheduling system?
  3. How accurate are your routing files?

Finding a well-qualified partner to help you through the planning, installation, training and implementation is one of the safest ways to making an APS work for your business.  FACTIVITY has the expertise to help you make these important decisions. As our motto says “we keep it simple and make it work.”

Scroll to Top