Pushing the Envelope With Digital Detailed Scheduling

In a world of growing complexity, product portfolios, and degrees of freedom while creating a detailed schedule, it pays off to Digitize and automate the planning process with state-of-art solutions. The human brain alone is simply no longer fit for conducting detailed scheduling as required in the modern age. To overcome the challenges of reliability, robustness, bounded rationality, poor knowledge management and a labour intensive process, a client of Capgemini Consulting in the European manufacturing industry has Digitized its Detailed Scheduling process. As a result, our client has gained substantial benefits in operational performance, asset utilization, and capital and operational expenditures.

A planner’s task is getting more difficult

The world around us is becoming increasingly complex and detailed. Product portfolios are growing rather than decreasing in size. The amount of data related to a product also continues to grow, supported by increasing use of Big Data to drive product insights. A growing product portfolio requires more planning than ever before, and planners need to take more data and more perspectives into account compared to the early days. For a planner, this surely raises the bar for finding an optimal balance between capacity utilization and the average order lead time. Digitization aids in pushing the envelope for a planner even further.

IT solutions or keep using Excel?

With numerous planning solutions, such as SAP APO or solutions from Quintiq, Ortec, OMPartners and others, having been implemented in the past to address this complexity, the domain of planning has been on the forefront of becoming Digital, particularly where the focus of planning and scheduling has been on the medium or long term. Yet, at the level of detailed scheduling just outside of the pulpit where time horizons are short but the amount of detail to plan with is high, many planners still rely on their tacit knowledge and expertise – and for a great deal on Excel – to generate an ideal schedule.

Several challenges exist with this approach:

  • Although Excel offers great flexibility, the robustness of an Excel file remains a pitfall
  • Bounded rationality: there is only so much a human brain is able to handle
  • Lack of automation creates a labour-intensive, manual process

Becoming Digital

Becoming Digital will help to overcome these issues and will create substantial benefits to the detailed scheduling process. The aforementioned client of Capgemini Consulting has embarked on such a journey. Having moved beyond Excel several years ago, the client had implemented a solution that addressed the issue of robustness, but had not resolved any additional challenges. At the time, material units were sequenced manually relying greatly on experience while applying business rules and constraints. A new detailed scheduling solution with advanced algorithms and heuristics was envisioned to tackle these issues once and for all. Although the required automation and configuration of relevant business rules and hard and soft constraints does take time, it brings several benefits to the table:

The benefits

After an initial phase in which the classical steps of design, build, test, and run had been taken, some steps were taken to fine-tune rules and logic before the new detailed scheduler of went live and was deployed to the users. But what was the added value of this new detailed scheduling solution? With the proof being in the data, results from before and after the Go-Live were compared. With an acceptable decline on one KPI as a result of the newly generated schedules, a substantial improvement has been realized on all the others. This overall improvement has resulted in a great reduction of waste altogether.

Taking a closer look at the jump indicators and its standard deviations, there’s another improvement to be concluded. Not only have the KPIs improved, in most cases the standard deviation has decreased too; indicating that transitions from one material unit to another has become more gradual. At the bottom line, this resulted in even higher asset utilization and operational performance.

By Digitizing the detailed scheduling process by means of implementing and automating a line scheduler, our client has been able to improve on:

This is just one example of the potential that Digital detailed scheduling may bring in the context of a specific industry, in this case manufacturing. Yet, achieving such potential requires some patience, simply because longer time series are needed for comparison to obtain a reliable picture of the improvement. Nevertheless, the results are promising and will continue to yield returns year-on-year. Have you considered to embark on a journey to Digitize the detailed scheduling process and improve operational efficiency, effectiveness, and expenditure?

This blog has appeared on Capgemini Consulting Global Supply Chain Transformation Blog

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