Do you know what your manufacturing, storage, logistics, labor or other capacity is when producing simultaneously? Where is the risk of bottleneck? And how to plan to utilize these capacities to the maximum?
The only things you can rely on are quantities such as the speed of passing time, the size of space, or the physical production capacity of individual workplaces. In contrast, when operating manufacturing, storage, logistics, or any other chain, you must take into account the variability of overlapping areas, including the following:
- Supply chain management - the need to monitor raw material and semi-finished product inventories and manage supplies to ensure that production runs smoothly and in accordance with the plan.
Setting production processes - Setting and managing the flow of production so that individual operations seamlessly follow each other and bottlenecks do not occur, where items are queued.
This is especially important in the case of parallel work on several orders, where individual items converge at certain workstations to perform a specific operation and then continue on to the next.
- Planned and unplanned downtime for maintenance and service of various equipment.
- Reserve fund and inability to delay - Clear deadlines supported by penalties, loss of trust, and the need to start work on other orders...
- Ensuring sales to avoid inventory overload.
A valuable production / order planner is one that takes all of the above into account and harmonizes production with supply and demand to ensure that the company's production capacities are optimally utilized, everything runs smoothly in accordance with the plan, and customer expectations are met. From the description, it is clear that we are talking about complex planning here - companies that function efficiently in this field over the long term cannot do without software that works with time dynamics and real-time data.
In this article, I work with the concept of production. However, you can replace this term with any operation associated with the operation of your company. For example, the same process takes place within the warehouse - only packing operations take place instead of production operations.
At a basic level, everything is simple. An hour has 60 minutes, a day has 24 hours, a year has 365 days, 5 hours 48 minutes and 45 seconds. Based on this, there are just over 2,000 standard working hours in a year for one employee.
Similarly, planning can be just as simple for a production line producing one specific product:
- Station 1 - Preparation and cleaning of materials (3 minutes)
- Move to Station 2 (2 minutes)
- Station 2 - Etching (4 minutes)
- Move to Station 3 (2 minutes)
- Station 3 - Final finishing (6 minutes)
The total time for this process is 17 minutes, in other words, the production capacity of the line is around ~2.53 products/hour.
However, when we have a different business, we are producing several products in parallel or working on multiple orders. The individual stations for specific operations are shared. We work with a spider web, where each station has several input and output sources. Different items have different processing times. For smooth production, we need the performance of each station to be optimally balanced with the flow of all inputs. First and foremost, we need to verify this fact, and secondly, we may need to make changes to achieve this.
This is more difficult to put into Excel. Simply put, as complexity increases, the requirements for computational and planning tools increase. However, with the right tools, even such production planning is child's play!
Manager plans, life changes.
A quality static planning tool allows for perfect planning of everything. However, this plan is based on data entered by the production planning worker. This is fully sufficient as long as everything goes according to plan - deliveries, sales, and production itself.
A series of fluctuations from the optimal state are easily solvable, but recent years have shown us that years of established standards no longer apply. The concept of just-in-time, availability of components immediately upon order, and the inability to influence the operation of companies from the outside...
Giant changes that occurred in the past and had to be dynamically resolved from day to day. Modern planning software must take into account the dynamics of the current world - outputs of the production plan must be automatically recalculated regularly based on current data and alert to possible problems.
How will planning software help with that?
The basic planning software is a model of production - a simplified digital twin. It includes all workplaces, works with processing and transfer times. It replicates physical processes and accurately depicts how items flow through production over time. The output is a clear overview of the queues of items being formed at specific workplaces, as well as a record of idle time.
The input to the model is data on planned quantities, deliveries, and sales. And that data is in real time - thanks to the software, you can see what production flows will look like in an hour, day, week, or month. Whether any problem will occur in the accumulation of time.
The output is not a static report. The output is an analytical dashboard that is constantly recalculated and reflects all changes. So if anything changes during processing, you see it and can react.
Helper for workplace layout & scheduling
The simplified model allows for easy variability - a few mouse clicks can be used to expand and add new workplaces, influence their parameters, plan working hours, and find the optimal layout, number of workplaces, and employees so that the flow of items through production is smooth, no operation is excessively delayed, and everything is properly done within the agreed deadlines.