When my wife and I recently moved into a new home, my father-in-law came to stay with us to help hang photos, arrange our belongings, and assemble some new pieces of furniture, one of which was a dining room table and chairs. We spread out the component parts on the dining room floor and set to work - I took the task of preparing the tabletop while my father-in-law worked to complete the table legs and associated joists necessary to secure each leg into the top.
Without delving too deep into my own shortcomings, it’s fair to say I’m not terribly handy or mechanically inclined, so it didn’t take long for my father-in-law to complete one leg while I continued fumbling with the tabletop. Noticing this, I told him he could stop, take a break, and wait for me to catch up, but he said that wouldn’t be very efficient and quickly completed all four legs and moved onto other steps in the table’s assembly as I slowly worked through my task. Finally, when I caught up, we were able to finish complete assembly of the table without any disruptions in workflow, and we were dining on the newly constructed table later that evening.
This lesson in production control got me thinking about the issues many manufacturers experience in looking for ways to increase production efficiency - particularly when it comes to upstream areas like paint and body shop work, which can act as something of an internal supplier to the finished product.
Achieving the desired sequence of production depends largely on the turbulence and possibility for disruption via the relation between upstream and downstream areas, and creating a streamlined production process between these two touch points in the manufacturing stream is crucial in maintaining a productive, cost-efficient supply network.
So for those wondering: What does my dining room table assembly experience have to do with manufacturing and production control? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
The compensation or course correction often needed, given disruption between stages of production, can most often be mitigated with a buffer - an inventory of product or space where existing product is housed when various stages of production are difficult to align in terms of scheduling, level of intensity, or other potentially disruptive factors. These buffers allow manufacturers to keep production lines running smoothly at various stages while ensuring the appropriate level of component parts inventory to continue production when these earlier stages are finally complete - think back to my struggles with the tabletop while my father in-law kept plugging away so we wouldn’t experience a work stoppage when I completed my task.
However, many of these buffers can be quite costly in terms of investment, inventory, and physical space, factors that can be the death knell for optimized production strategies - in addition, not all buffers account for shortages in inventory, missing component parts, shortcomings in overall productivity of assembly, and other variations.
In order to help bolster these more traditional buffer structures, companies need to leverage an intelligent and integrated buffer strategy in the form of a production control software solution that cuts through the planned production complexities across all points of the manufacturing spectrum, but that also communicates with other integrated software systems from the control room to the shop floor.
Production control is a dynamic, forward-thinking solution where planners and managers can adjust to various constraints and rule changes in real-time to avoid cherry picking of assumed important parts or processes without fully understanding the impact of these decisions - essentially, in variant rich industries, production control provides the visibility and transparency necessary to implement strategies for which components or processes are put into a buffer without creating bottlenecks or production disruptions.
Again, thinking back to my new dining room table, production control software would allow someone supervising the assembly to see the potential bottleneck or increased lead time in my stage of the assembly and compensate for that by buffering my father-in-law’s stage with the excess of completed component parts for later assembly or production.
The benefits for manufacturers who leverage production control solutions are many, but some of the most impactful across the entire value chain include:
- Enhanced transparency about the status, location, condition, and needs of component parts in the buffer, which can engender more efficient and productive sequencing to facilitate increased planned production and more accurate scheduling and delivery dates.
- Consideration of blockages, bottlenecks, or disruptions and the real-time data and metrics necessary to implement alterations in rules or constraints to maintain planned production schedules and ensure stability of inventory.
- The holistic inclusion of existing planning restrictions, constraints, and objectives to foster a more visible, transparent, and agile production stream which companies can leverage into a value proposition across the entire supply network from production to sales and marketing.
As you can see, the concept of production control software in planned production schemes is crucial in ensuring companies maintain a leg-up on the competition in today’s global supply network. Given the remote nature of production, distribution, transportation, and warehousing facilities, implementing an efficient, cost-effective production strategy will help combat potential disruptions that can create a domino effect across a company’s entire network.