Julie Fraser: The devil’s in the industry detail for scheduling
Much of the supply chain software market had its start in detailed finite scheduling. So why is it that many companies aren’t using supply chain software for detailed production scheduling?
Sometimes it just boils down to specific industry needs: Some industries are so predictable they can hardly justify it, while others have such unique needs that they could not find a solution—until recently.
Batch & repetitive : Most scheduling products on the market can improve resource utilization where some contention for resources exists, but routings are predictable and there is at least some make-to-stock. Good examples are Asprova (also sold by Production Modeling and others); i2; Infor; JDA; Logility; Waterloo; Preactor (also sold by Factivity and others); Prescient; Quintiq; RedPrairie; Supply Chain Consultants; Taylor; and ERP providers Consona, Epicor, Lawson, Oracle, Plexus, Ross, SAP, Solarsoft, and SYSPRO. Most of these products are not industry-specific.
Lean : Heijunka scheduling can level load the plant as demand changes volume and mix. Support is available in SAP’s xLPO, DemandPoint’s Factory Manager and Supply Manager, and SoftBrands’ Fourth Shift Lean.
Assembly line : For high-volume lines that require very complex sequencing rules with large numbers of interdependencies, Optessa is proven at many levels in automotive plants, from planning to assembly- and feeder-line scheduling to sequencing out of the buffer between paint shop and final build.
Oil & gas : Here, using assets is the key to profits, given constant change in the status of oil rigs and exploration equipment. Actenum offers a single product to schedule both maintenance and production, and a specific oil rig activity scheduler.
Liquid batch process : The complexity of managing materials flow through tanks and vessels is extreme, and Infor’s process group has a very strong product for this need. AspenTech, Infor, and WAM Systems have long-proven systems.
Mill products : These industries have a fundamentally different production problem in that there are no units of production, and the equipment runs at full capacity all the time. Greycon focuses on sheet and roll converters; OM Partners focuses on corrugated and solid board and metals, as well as paper, plastics, glass, and textiles.
True to-order : Companies with configure- or engineer-to-order products often find that variability in their routings makes scheduling extremely difficult. Optisol, nMetric, and Visiprise’s scheduler are focused on these job shops and complex routing industries; Rockwell also has experience.
Projects : Project-based industries such as aerospace and construction have special scheduling issues that combine project with production scheduling. IFS; Sage (Master Builder); and Visibility can address this combination.
Model the Unique : Wahupa is entering the market, aiming to schedule midsize companies for which most supply chain software does not fit. Those with unique needs are the target.
The markets that no commercial scheduler can handle appear to be shrinking. If you have not considered this last mile of your supply chain, it might be time. Many plants can now tame the devil of plant scheduling, enabling further productivity as competition keeps turning up the heat.
|Julie Fraser is Principal of Industry Directions Inc., and has been an industry analyst, consultant, and marketer for more than 20 years, specializing in manufacturing value network processes and systems. Julie can be reached through Manufacturing Business Technology or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org|