3 Challenges with Manufacturing Scheduling Software

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When properly programmed to do so, computers are especially good at calculating optimal solutions to problems that have lots of variables, rules, and constraints. The National Football League (NFL), for example, uses sophisticated software to determine each season’s game schedules, which is subject to a surprisingly large number of business rules.

Large airlines use ERP software to figure out what pilots and flight attendants to assign to each of their hundreds of daily flights. Even movie production companies need software to coordinate the personnel and equipment required for both studio and location shoots.

Manufacturing Scheduling Software

Typical manufacturing operations—especially those in industries where razor-thin operating margins are the norm—are under intense pressure to increase productivity and reduce costs. 

This often means trying to operate all of their master production schedule at full capacity as much as possible, minimizing manual processes, and reducing the amount of raw-material inventory sitting on their shelves.

Modern manufacturers are turning to manufacturing scheduling software to help with their advanced planning and scheduling tasks. However, some small manufacturers find that they aren’t realizing the productivity and efficiency gains they anticipated. 

This article describes three common challenges when using production scheduling software for manufacturing such as ERP systems and how they can be overcome.

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Choosing the Right Software

Whether a standalone tool or a component of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, scheduling software for manufacturing comes in a wide variety of types and capabilities. Hence, it’s critical to choose one that’s suitable for your business.

One of the most fundamental choices has to do with the type of manufacturing you engage in. Manufacturing planning and scheduling software that is optimized for discrete manufacturing (bicycles or computers, for instance) might not work well for process manufacturing, such as food, beverages, and hair-care products. 

Process manufacturing often has cooking, cooling, and reaction steps that don’t figure into discrete manufacturing; the scheduling system needs to take these into account.

Another factor to consider is ease of use. Shop-floor personnel are not anxious to do a lot of data entry or manual updating, so using the software needs to fit as seamlessly as possible with their existing production processes and supply chain. 

Furthermore, planners need visual representations of the output, such as Gantt charts, to see at a glance the dependency relationships and potential bottlenecks.

Being Realistic About Resource Availability

This challenge has less to do with the software itself, and more with how it’s set up and used.

Most manufacturing equipment can’t run 24/7 indefinitely. Each machine can experience downtime because of:

  • Planned maintenance (necessary to prevent long-term failures)
  • Line clearance and retooling between work orders
  • Unplanned downtime due to equipment failure
  • Unplanned downtime due to missing material requirements (fuel, lubricating oil, water) or other needs (power, network connectivity, skilled operators)

Not to mention the fact that a machine might be unavailable because it’s busy working on something else.

The point is, all foreseeable sources of downtime should be considered and realistically modeled in any manufacturing scheduling software for small business or enterprise. If a particular line clearance or planned maintenance activity takes an average of 2.5 hours, use that number—don’t rely on an unrealistic figure such as 2.0 hours and hope that it magically comes true.

Similarly, it’s not realistic to assume an unlimited supply of shop-floor labor. Certain machines require specialized training that not everyone will have. For optimal scheduling of manufacturing, your human resources need to be described in the system in as much detail as your machines.

Accommodating Different Production Triggers

This challenge is a combination of software choice and configuration. What triggers your manufacturing orders: demand forecasting (made-to-stock), or customer orders (made-to-order)? Or some of each? The evaluation will affect your purchase orders, too. 

The answer should inform both the choice of software for production scheduling in manufacturing and the way it’s configured. If your production management has both types of triggers, the software should be flexible enough to accommodate both—and be configured correctly for both MTO and MTS products.

Modern manufacturing faces daunting hurdles to consistent profitability, and one of the most important is scheduling. Manufacturing without effective production planning software can result in problems such as:

  • Idle equipment
  • Underutilization of some workers
  • Excessive overtime for other workers
  • Overproduction of some products in real time
  • Backorders on others

However, with the selection of an appropriate tool that is properly configured for
scheduling software for manufacturing and your particular situation, you can overcome the challenges and prevent these problems.

One of these tools is IFS — a robust platform that’s applicable to several industries such as fast growing food and beverage companies. If you’re interested in learning more about Manufacturing Scheduling Software for your business, please contact Corning Data for more information.


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