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Production planning: The sequence matters


By Gerald Scheffels for ifm

Starter, main course, dessert: With a good meal, the order is fixed. It's the same with football (kick-off, first half, break, second half) and with a symphony: first the overture, then three to five movements. In industrial production it is more difficult – even if most modern tools such as SAP are used. It can always happen that it "hooks" somewhere: on the machine itself, in the upstream process or in the downstream process. The reason: In the SAP standard – unless SAP APO is used – planning across several work centres is very time-consuming because no automation is possible. This, in turn, is due to the fact that such multi-work centre planning is extraordinarily complex. In order to realise it, one needs above all a suitable sequence. But how can this be determined?

Challenging, but not impossible: multi-work centre planning in production

For practical production sequence planning, in a nutshell, you need all relevant data and an intelligent evaluation of this data. Answered in more detail: A tool is needed that determines for each order,

  • which material and/or which parts are needed,
  • when the material/parts have to be at which work centre,
  • which manufacturing processes are upstream and downstream,
  • which rest and buffer times must be observed.

And – this is what makes the task so complex – these data not only have to be collected and correlated for each individual order. Also the order dependencies among each other determine whether production runs or comes to a standstill.

Pegging as relationship manager

Pegging is used to determine complex order structures even in the case of anonymous make-to-stock production. Only this enables optimisation of the entire production across all customer orders. The task is not trivial. It requires that unstructured individual orders become logical and coherent order chains. Complex algorithms check all order dependencies and calculate feasible production sequences. The software constantly determines other possible detailed production plans, compares the quality and offers the user an optimised plan at the end.

The right tool: FOX

This is exactly the task that the software tool FOX takes over. "FOX" stands for Factory Optimisation Excellence and consists of two essential elements,

  • the production planning tool with the pegging function and
  • the „optimiser“, i.e. the algorithm.

With the help of an intelligent algorithm, the optimiser puts the dependency knowledge extracted from the SAP system, including all determined restrictions, into an optimised sequence. The optimised plan is then imported into the SAP system and all affected orders are rescheduled according to their new sequence.

This optimisation process takes place outside the SAP system and can be operated both in the cloud and on-premises.

Conclusion: A tool with high utility value

With FOX, a holistic and comprehensive production sequence planning can be realised that brings high benefits for companies – in many ways. Production is accelerated, stagnations and interruptions are effectively avoided. The waste of precious resources is also prevented.

Further goals and advantages resulting from algorithm-based optimisation in production planning are:

  • Ensuring adherence to delivery dates
  • Continuous utilisation of existing production capacities
  • Shorter lead times
  • Reduction of stocks
  • Permanent reduction of manufacturing costs
  • Increasing the delivery readiness
  • Reduction of CO2 emissions

You can find more information about FOX here.