How to install an Order Slotting Process for Lean Manufacturing

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Managing supply chain operations over the past few years has been a lot like playing Whack-a-Mole. The minute one crisis or shortage eases, there’s another to take its place: Toilet paper, bread flour, lumber, semiconductors, baby formula.

Behind each of these challenges were production planners who spent hours developing work-around plans with the sales, procurement, plant floor and shipping teams to keep operations running…only to have the situation change moments later with a backordered part or unexpected spike in demand. Planners stuck trying to manage the complexity with spreadsheets were probably wishing there was a better way.

There is. Industry 4.0 technologies such as Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) solutions can help planners build agile production schedules around supply chain constraints and customer demands to ensure that operations are as effective and efficient as possible.

APS uses a variety of interconnected modules to look at the relationship between sales and production (Order Slotting & Scheduling), plant capabilities (Detailed or Job Shop Scheduling), and the optimal pearl chain of orders to level production and to maximize efficiency (Sequencing).

In this blog post, we’ll focus on the Order Slotting and Scheduling functions of APS.

How Order Slotting and Scheduling Works

As the name suggests, Order Slotting and Scheduling starts once an order is received from the sales team. A series of questions need to be answered before the product can be manufactured:

  • What materials, parts or other resources are needed to produce the product?
  • Are the materials available now or do they need to be ordered?
  • How long will it take to get materials that aren’t in stock?
  • When does the customer need the product?
  • How long will it take to manufacture the product?

In a digitalized manufacturing environment, the APS solution allows the production planner to access real-time data showing the current inventory of raw materials, parts and other resources. An order slotting workflow takes a combination of real and forecasted production orders and takes into account the raw materials, parts, components and other resources needed to manufacture each product. The Order Slotting and Scheduling solution then compares total material needs to real-time information about parts availability and constraints, to help manage both the ordering of materials and inventory management in an optimal way. The system generates an optimized production plan that shows which material need to be where, when which order specific tasks will ovvur and should be produced, so all constraints of complex processes are taken into account.

As real orders come in and forecasted orders change, the new needs and BOMS are compared with the organization’s existing stock and orders in a dynamic way, so parts shortages or disruptions caused by large, unexpected orders can be avoided.

The interface with production

Having real-time visibility into incoming sales orders can mean the difference between a production schedule that works—and one that needs to be reworked. That’s the real advantage of APS solutions with order slotting and scheduling modules. These modules mediate real-time data between sales and production, ensuring that operations are cohesive and efficient across all departments.

Order Slotting & Scheduling takes into account current production conditions, such as capacities and restrictions, before assigning delivery dates. The solution alerts planners to potential bottlenecks and identifies alternative assembly lines, plants or production times within specified parameters. Orders are only transferred to the system if there is capacity. As a result, customer orders are distributed evenly and the assembly line is evenly utilized.

Bringing it all together

A key advantage of APS solutions is ability to provide visibility across the manufacturing network. Different departments have access to the same level of information at all times. This makes it easier to coordinate decisions in the event of rescheduling, and avoids duplication of effort in sales, logistics and production.

Planners who want to fully optimize the production planning process can gain even more efficiencies by pairing order slotting solutions with technologies that automate Job Shop Scheduling and Sequencing.

While no one can predict when supply chain disruptions will pop up, APS solutions provide planners with powerful solutions to tackle them head-on.


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