Re-Engineering the Planning Process for an Advanced Planning System

(Why you can’t plan the same way as you did before and expect improvement)

To gain productivity and create better plans with an Advanced Planning and Scheduling System (APS) you must do the following:

  1. Precisely schedule the minimum horizon, roughly plan the remainder of the horizon.
  2. Allow the system freedom to plan.
  3. Focus on the real constraints.

Schedule the minimum horizon:

With less intelligent planning systems, planners typically spend time creating a long-term plan for capacity projections and supplier planning.  An advanced planning system can create this long-term plan automatically, according to the rules and constraints you configure in the system.  It adds no value to precisely schedule or manually adjust the plan in this region, as it will change anyway the next time you plan.

If you believe a good plan is not being created for the longer horizon, the solution is to revisit your constraints and planning rules, not to manually adjust the plan.

Allow the System the Freedom to Plan:

If everything is a constraint on the plan, it will be impossible to generate an automated plan that satisfies all constraints.  The planner will manually adjust the plan to make it feasible, and then they will complain that the system saves them no time and effort.

If this is the case, let’s think about what they are really doing … they will be breaking one or more constraints.

To break this cycle, focus on the few real constraints that cannot be violated or broken, create weighted penalty costs that reflect other less important considerations, and allow the system to create the low-cost plan.

Focus on the Real Constraints:

Related to the point above, if the item is something that the planners will routinely violate in order to create a feasible plan, it’s not a real constraint.

The Business Case for Advanced Planning Systems (APS)

I’ve implemented over 75 sites for linear programming based Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) applications since 1989.  An APS implementation is not to be taken lightly, as it typically requires re-engineering of the planning process and higher skill levels from the planners.

Here are some of the key indicators that an APS system will pay out:

  • Tightly coupled Make/Pack or Feeding/Consuming operations.
  • The difficulty of scheduling is beyond the scope of a single planner.
  • Constrained production.
  • Highly deployed inventory.
  • Re-scheduling is required within the day.
  • Coordination of production and shipping within the day.
    • Otherwise, you could be planning to ship something at 10 am that will not be produced until 2:00 pm.
  • Complex spreadsheets are being used to plan production or distribution.

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