What is Production Planning Software?
Actually, a better starting point for a discussion of production planning is simply to ask, what does your company use to plan and schedule production? Does your company plan production on spreadsheets? When a customer requests expedited delivery on an order, does your planner head to the whiteboard and begin erasing jobs to free up capacity? Can your planners see at a glance that alternative workcenters are available to alleviate a bottleneck in production? At peak season do your production planners remind you of a juggler straining to keep all the orders in the air while adding one more?
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then it could be time to add an advanced production planning system to your company’s toolkit.
What does a Production Planning system do?
Most ERP systems include some variant of a production planning system. They allow users to schedule production, make adjustments to that schedule, and manage customer expectations regarding promise dates. There are, however, production planning tools available that provide greater insight into capacity and resource availability, while also affording more flexibility and options when managing production bottlenecks and running “what if” scenarios.
ERP systems, by definition, are typically a collection of modules using a single relational database. The modules may encompass accounting, human resources, inventory, production planning and scheduling, capacity utilization and demand management (as well as many other modules). Our discussion, though, is specifically about the Production Planning component in the ERP.
Production Planning, again by definition, is the ability to create an achievable production schedule consistent with available resources and demand. In order to achieve that overarching goal, the Planning system should account for the load and availability of machines and people, allow for easy adjustments to the schedule, and result in accurate information regarding promise dates that can be shared with customers. The key point here being that your company needs to be able to understand both capacity and demand sufficiently to manage inventory and lead times.
Unfortunately, most ERP systems do not do not account for finite capacity. In other words, they allow a user to plan production as if there were no limitation on resources or machines. We don’t know of any company with infinite resources or unlimited capacity, making the production planning tools in use inadequate at best and a breeding ground for inaccuracy at worst.
how does you current production planning system measure up?
Advanced Planning software is the answer. Production planners need tools that can accurately reflect a company’s capacity constraints and allow them to manage, adjust, and refine the production schedule, so they can give their customers accurate delivery dates and quickly simulate scenarios based on real capacity. If your production planning software does not include the following characteristics, then you may well benefit from using advanced planning software:
- Auto-Scheduling (rules-based)
- Drag and Drop (fine tune/adjust)
- Alternative Workcenters
- Bottleneck Management
- What If Scenario (Capacity)
- Change Impact Notification
- Fix Schedule (pin)
Having advanced production planning software is only part of the equation, though, when it comes to running a production environment as efficiently as possible. The planning software is completely dependent on the quality and integrity of the data it uses. We’ve all heard the saying, “Garbage In Garbage Out.” If routing data or operational details are either inaccurate or missing, then advanced planning software will expose those deficiencies.
Some companies know the routing data is incorrect and they use the visual scheduler as a means to rectify inaccurate routings. Reading the text detail of operations is often difficult to understand. Seeing those operations as a timeline with color coding for the various operation values is key to improving the routing detail. E.g. run time, setup, and process time are all shown with unique color indicators. People sometimes see their routings for the first time and exclaim, “Well, that’s not right!”
Do you need a better Production Planning System in your life?
This discussion began with a question about what your company uses for production planning, and we’re going to end with a series of questions, too.
- Would you company benefit from reducing inventory and long lead times?
- Does customer satisfaction suffer as you struggle to keep promise dates?
- Do high volume production periods lead to overtime or missed orders?
- Are your ready to get rid of the whiteboard?
If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” then advanced production planning software may well be the answer to your prayers, increasing productivity and customer satisfaction while also increasing revenue.