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Two Key Questions Process Manufacturers Should Ask Themselves when Implementing New Process Manufacturing Software

Monday, March 29th, 2010 by admin

Many process manufacturers with whom we enter into discussions have a similar make up prior to implementing new process manufacturing software like TGI’s Enterprise 21 system.  Currently, their production reporting exists only on paper.  They also want to do system-enabled production scheduling but don’t have production standards documented, such as the duration of the setup and run times respectively for each product within each production process step.

So, they wonder where to start for their implementation of new process manufacturing software.  Two key elements to be considered to be able to answer these questions are what metrics the process manufacturer wants to be able to track and what they want to accomplish relative to system-enabled production scheduling.

Regarding the question about metrics, it is very common for companies to want to be able to measure and analyze a variety of things.  What is my throughput rate?  How much product is scrapped during production?  What is the yield of various ingredients going into each product?  Do we consistently have to add additional ingredients to the production of some products so they ultimately meet a customer’s specifications when completed?

The only way to be able to analyze and track these metrics is to measure and record data during the production process.  It is often comical to have discussions with potential new clients who want to be able to analyze and track key data – such as lot traceability – who in the same breath argue that they can’t possibly take the time in their operations to record such data.  It’s as if they believe a new process manufacturing system will somehow discern this information without anyone or anything recording the data.  Again, to be able to analyze and track data from a production process requires that data to be measured and recorded – either by human intervention via a keyboard, touch screen, or scanning process or directly from a production manufacturing machine via a data interface.

As for production scheduling, every process manufacturer’s business has certain idiosyncrasies or business rules by which it lives.  First, a given product must go through a series of steps or processes to be produced.  Similarly, each work center in a given production facility has a maximum production capacity or throughput rate.  Next, the amount of time to setup (the preparation time required for a given process step), run time (the actual time to perform the production of a given quantity of a product), and queue time (the amount of time a product must be delayed for cooling or other purposes before it is permitted to move to the next step in the process) needs to be known and documented for each product at each step in the process.

At a deeper level, one must know what products can be run together in a sequence (called scheduling groups) in a given work center so adverse results aren’t produced by running two products through the same work center in succession, and what scheduling groups should be run in what sequences through various work centers to minimize setup time, thus yielding a higher total throughput.  And finally, what classes of products cannot be run simultaneously on two adjacent production work centers as there will be a reaction between the two products causing resulting quality issues.

While there are a number of other details beyond the ones documented above, these items are intended to help depict the process necessary to create a series of business rules required to enable the creation of a system-generated production schedule that can be used by a process manufacturer for the scheduling of their production facilities.

By asking themselves what metrics do I want to be able to track and analyze, and to what extent do I want to be able to perform system-enabled production scheduling, process manufacturers will help define the scope and ultimate success of their implementations of strong process manufacturing systems like Enterprise 21.


Real Production Scheduling in ERP Systems: Servicing Short-cycle Demand in a Mixed Make-to-Stock and Make-to-Order Environment

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 by admin

Most of the manufacturing entities with which we come into contact want to use their new ERP system for production scheduling purposes.  One of the first questions that people tend to ask us regarding this topic is, “Can you change production schedules via drag and drop?”  While this feature demos well, there are far more sophisticated questions that should be asked of ERP software vendors relative to production scheduling functionality.

Almost all manufacturing companies with whom we talk share the following characteristics:
•    They are capacity constrained in at least some portion of their production environment.
•    They run a mix of make-to-stock and make-to-order production.
•    There are certain products that may be produced on a very short lead time (as hot orders) that could be thrown into the production schedule the same day they’re ordered by customers.
•    There are complexities to process changeover in such a manner that producing all products of a given family or with certain shared characteristics (i.e., all products of the same color in a painting operation) is imperative to maximize production throughput and minimize off-spec production and process changeovers.

One of the first questions that a manufacturer should ask potential software vendors is whether their system performs finite capacity scheduling or infinite capacity scheduling.  With finite capacity scheduling, one can establish process and machine capacities which can be taken into account.  By doing so, the manufacturer who is capacity constrained can establish a realistic tentative production schedule by not allowing the system to produce a scenario that couldn’t possibly be performed.  If, for example, you only have production capacity within a given work center or have associated labor availability to produce 300 units of a given item per hour, it makes absolutely no sense to have your ERP system generate an unconstrained production schedule with 3-4 fold that amount of production per hour being assumed to run through that work center or with the given number of laborers.

Next, what capabilities does the given ERP system have to manage both make-to-stock and make-to-order production?  Make-to-stock production would generally be scheduled based on a signal – either traditional time-phased inventory management processes like MRP or via an electronic signal of similar nature.  Make-to-order production would be done by enabling business rules within the system to evaluate the given finished good’s bill of materials or formula, determine whether or not all required raw materials and ingredients were available, and if not, when they could be available via supply chain management, what available production capacity exists to produce the given item, and having the system schedule the production while concurrently generating any required purchase requisitions.  Within Enterprise 21, this description of capabilities embodies the collective functionality of Available and Capable to Promise plus Make-to-Order and Automated Supply Chain processing.

Assuming your organization runs with make-to-order processing and allows customers to place such orders on short cycle times (i.e., produced the same day they’re ordered), then it is imperative to leave production capacity available for the placement of these make-to-order items on the same day’s production schedule.  For example, if your organization runs two, eight-hour production shifts, and typically has four hours of short-cycle make-to-order production to perform each day, then it makes sense to set up your finite capacity scheduling processes to assume a maximum of twelve hours for make-to-stock production for the given day.

Finally, ERP systems like Enterprise 21 enable scheduling using schedule groups.  In this case, products with like scheduling characteristics can be placed in the same scheduling group and these items would be placed in the production schedule consecutively.  As well, one can establish scheduling group rules such that certain scheduling groups would follow the completion of other scheduling groups. As an example, in a painting operation where products being produced were white, red, and blue respectively, this would be a likely ordering of production to try to minimize the production of pinks and purples as color changeover occurred.

Similarly, where applicable, manufacturers should be able to build machine “clean out” or “wash down” time into the production schedule between the production of two different schedule groups. For example, a food manufacturer who produces certain items that contain peanuts or other food allergens followed by other items that cannot contain peanuts on the same production machine will need to have machine clean out time built into the production schedule between those two respective schedule groups.

So, if you’re a manufacturer with any reasonable level of complexity in your manufacturing processes, don’t be drawn like a moth to the flame during software demonstrations.  Dig deeper into ERP systems’ manufacturing scheduling functionality so you have a broader set of requirements beyond, “Does your production scheduling system support drag and drop functionality?”