How to plan the Right Sequences for Agile Operations

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The headlines are filled with stories about retailers with overflowing warehouses as inflation, shifts in consumer spending habits, miscalculated demand for products and continuing supply chain volatility converge in a glut of excess inventory. Many are resorting to deep discounts to clear out stock in time for upcoming seasonal orders.

Some blame the shift from just-in-time to just-in-case inventory levels as retailers seek to buffer themselves from economic headwinds. But the same thing can happen to planners in a manufacturing environment. Raw materials, parts and other resources stockpiled to weather the next crisis can tie up cash flow, crowd storage areas and create inefficiencies. What would be a more effective backup? More technology integration, more data tracking and more communication than ever before, according to Fortune magazine.

Industry 4.0 technologies such as Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS) solutions can optimally allocate raw materials and production capacity to meet demand. 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 schedule to maximize production efficiency (Sequencing).

In this blog post, we’ll focus on the Sequencing functions of APS.

How Sequencing Technologies Works

Sequencing solutions can help planners generate an optimized, digital sequence from a pool of existing orders—allowing for alterations to the order of production based on new rules or constraints.

Each new and existing order a manufacturer receives is transferred into the sequencing program for a holistic view of the overall order pool. Planners can then view all production orders and their attributes, adding and removing orders due to changes in production requirements. When a rush order from an important client comes in, for example, planners can simply adjust production plans to reflect changes in incoming orders.

Sequencing solutions can be used to apply the principles of just in time delivery to factory floor operations. Rather than ordering the entire bill of materials for a particular product all at once, orders can be sequenced to make sure any component part that goes into a final product reaches the production facility only when it is needed.

Planners and schedulers can also create detailed models before implementing a sequencing strategy. Sequencing software solutions allow planners to review and analyze data in advance before selecting the optimal solution. Overall, sequencing technologies create an even distribution of assembly tasks and assembly times to combat disruptions in production and delivery. 

Automated sequencing in action

A supplier of forklift trucks, warehouse equipment and automation technology was looking for a way to optimize sequence planning and production control across its six European plants, taking into account production orders with varied characteristics, four-week lead times and restrictions regarding capacities, deadlines, and workload. They implemented a sequencing solution that accesses the operations lists for each production order as well as all operations carried out to manufacture a product. For each operation, the system displays which production order is planned at each work center and the standard values used to determine the dates or the workload. Production planners can visualize a real-time view of the best possible order sequence, taking into consideration all assembly and procurement restrictions. As a result, the supplier is able to manage complex processes in a standardized way, reliably meeting production targets.

Benefits now, benefits later

Sequencing solutions allow for the synergy and collaboration across a company’s various manufacturing, planning, and scheduling platforms by making data and reporting available to all concerned parties in real-time. Sequencing solution models can be archived and replicated as necessary. The data and information will remain available in the APS solution and can be accessed by multiple individuals across the supply chain for improved visibility and consistent application over time. Intelligent APS solutions in the cloud also allow supply chain managers to view real-time and historical production data from any location, at any time, to make smarter, more informed decisions. 

Sequencing solutions provide manufacturers with the power they need to move from just-in-case to just-in-time—reducing buffer stock, minimizing storage needs, and increasing cost savings. It’s an important tool for gaining more agility from start to finish in the assembly process.