Job scheduling/planning system integration yields profitable unattended operations
As manufacturers automate more of their processes, the payoff can be huge—both in cost savings and employee morale. That’s exactly the case for San Jose, Calif.-based Cypress Semiconductor, where employees once used pencil and paper to schedule jobs, says Rob Price, data warehouse manager for the San Jose, Calif.-based maker of computer chips and semiconductors used in data communications, telecommunications, computation, consumer products, and industrial control products.
Price says what made the situation particularly vexing was the sheer number of products, and all the possible configurations.
Cypress company management realized the need for a more refined scheduling system, but first looked to make better use of the planning system in use from i2 Technologies.
“To make optimal use of the i2 system, we needed a job scheduling solution,” Price says. “Not doing anything was out of the question—as was developing our own solution, which would have taken a number of programmers a long time to create.”
After reviewing some of the leading scheduling systems, Cypress selected ActiveBatch, an enterprise job scheduling solution from Advanced Systems Concepts said to be 10 times cheaper than others.
ActiveBatch is a cross-platform solution that structures tasks and applications into organized, integrated workflows. The result is reliable, unattended operations that trigger workflows based on date and time, events, or completion status.
Cypress is using ActiveBatch to orchestrate and coordinate jobs, Price says.
“As manufacturers become more sophisticated and global competition heats up, they need to automate as much as they can,” says Jim Manias, VP of Advanced Systems Concepts. “There’s a lot to be gained by eliminating manual hand-offs because that allows a company to reduce errors, production time, and operations costs. Those reductions can make a company more competitive.”
The problem is that automation by itself isn’t enough—particularly when more processes are being scheduled more frequently, Manias adds.
“In today’s world, events happen frequently and they can trigger subsequent events,” he says. “So the goal becomes not only to schedule across disparate systems, but also to know what to do when things don’t go right so operations don’t come to a standstill.”
That level of capability has become crucial for Cypress Semiconductor, whereby the company may chain together 100 jobs with numerous interdependencies, Price says. When one job is finished, its completion triggers the next job. A failure, on the other hand, might cause ActiveBatch to do something different or trigger an alarm, he says.
Additional benefits stem from knowing how long each job should take, Price says. That way, if a job takes too long, or is even completed too soon, ActiveBatch can send the correct alert or alarm, he says.
“Information about a job’s run time is documented for process improvement, along with data about all other jobs,” Price says. “That way we can go back and look at jobs based on run time and other factors to determine what went wrong and what went right—and make corresponding improvements to ensure jobs go right more frequently.”
The combination of the i2 planning system and the ActiveBatch solution for production planning and scheduling has driven significant improvements at Cypress, including the ability to cut its planning department by half, reduce inventory by 30 percent, and cut cycle time by 10 percent, Manias reports.