5 Must Have Features of APS Solution

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Advanced planning and scheduling (APS) solutions are like a crystal ball for production planners: They support a look ahead into the future with insights of the supply chain and can help companies to become more efficient, productive and cost-effective.

Autonomous planning systems with machine-learning capabilities can base their forecasts on many more factors than traditional approaches and can learn the “next normal" much faster, according to McKinsey. This visibility is essential to get the right product to the right place at the right time and through the right channel to fulfill customer demand and maximize growth.

It’s not magic. But the agile planning capabilities of APS solutions can certainly seem like it—especially given today’s supply chain volatility. Here are five must-have features of modern APS solutions that work like a charm:

1. Real-Time Capabilities

One of the most powerful features APS solutions can offer is real-time planning and data visibility. With real-time planning, production planners can ensure that all departments within the supply chain have the latest information and can operate accordingly. For example, a sales team that’s operating in a silo could slow down production if planners are unaware of new orders until hours later. Machines capable of powering an efficient production run will sit idle until the sales orders can catch up with the production plan. With real-time integration, planners have the visibility they need to make better decisions, avoiding costly idle-time, unexpected parts outages, and other disruptions.

2. Smart Slotting and Sequencing

Speed is an essential component of an efficient production line. An APS solution that offers AI-powered workflows for rapid and response planning can be particularly valuable. As conditions change, the order slotting and scheduling modules within the APS solution create automatic adjustments to midterm planning and find the optimal schedule for meeting demand. For example, an auto manufacturer recently implemented agile digital solutions to more effectively launch two new vehicle lines, three engine lines and related axle production. The complex scheduling requirements needed to take into account different order types, separate throughput times per order, a variety of process flows and a high degree of special case orders. Agile planning solutions allowed them to easily monitor the current factory status and the planned and unplanned orders. The result is a stable production line with an extremely customer-specific sequencing that optimizes workflows in real time.

3. Modular Implementation

Flexibility is essential for a supply chain to meet the fluctuating changes in demand and market conditions. APS suites that support modular deployments and implementations let planners manage their computing capacity in a dynamic way, using a central solution that interworks easily with several different add-ons. This is often found in cloud-based APS solutions with the ability to integrate with Microsoft Azure, AWS or popular suppliers of cloud services and can result in fast, simple, and scalable implementation across the organization.

4. Shop Floor Monitoring

Shop floor monitoring takes real-time functionality one step further. A crucial part of balancing and smoothing production flows on an ongoing basis requires knowing the status of shop floor operations. This means being able to get instantaneous data and alerts on weight, maintenance time, operating hours or errors that have occurred from radio frequency identification (RFID) units, robots, grippers and other devices directly into the planning platform. These can be sent to the manufacturer's cloud and be taken into account when sequencing production orders. Over time, the collected data can help companies to better understand their needs for slotting and scheduling and adjust forecasts accordingly.

5. Connectivity

Once information is gathered from shop floor devices and other systems, it still needs to be integrated. Solutions that network together in a flexible, modular way give planners the support they need to better understand what is happening under the hood of the organization. Sequencing solutions not only resolve the nodes of order scheduling, but can also resolve the edges that can arise during the transition to other systems such as ERP or MES. Look for software systems with open interfaces to exchange information with other systems.

When it comes to transforming organizations into smarter, more flexible and efficient operations, Advance Planning Solutions just may be the magic words companies need.


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