Historically, we tend to think of Henry Ford’s adoption of the assembly line as one of the most important moments in the history of automotive manufacturing—a moment when, all of a sudden, automobiles could be produced in an efficient, cost effective way. While it’s certainly true that this was a watershed moment for the industry, this emphasis on the assembly line can have the effect of obscuring that other production scheme that’s so integral to lives of many modern auto makers: the job shop. Indeed, job shop environments are crucial in many production workflows for the creation of parts and even whole cars. As a result, the ability to create efficient production schedules in such an environment can be a key value added propositions for manufacturers.
For decades, production planners in non-clocked production environments have been trying to optimize their job shop scheduling processes, and for decades the problem has continued to elude them, owing in large part to the tremendous complexity of uncovering the most efficient route for each product to take through a non-linear production environment. Luckily, new advancements in supply chain technology are constantly presenting planners with new tools and tactics they can use for gaining the maximum possible value from their production workflows. In many ways, the most significant of these advancements come in the form of the new technologies that make up the Industry 4.0 revolution. But what, exactly, is it that makes Industry 4.0 and job shop scheduling a match made in heaven?
Here at the flexis blog, we’ve spoken on more than one occasion about the inherent difficulties of job shop scheduling and the significant value added potential of developing a smart, digitized workflow for non-timed production planning. Because there is no known algorithm that can efficiently solve the problem of non-clocked production under all circumstances, the pen and paper production planners of the world are almost certainly failing to optimize their machine and personnel usage in job shop production settings. On the other hand, the path to optimal planning can appear dauntingly complex. To help you as you navigate these hurdles, we’re happy to present a case study on ENisco’s successful attempt to master the job shop problem.
Fun fact: In computer science, job shop scheduling is considered an NP-hard problem, which in this case means that the problem is complex enough that there is no known algorithm that can solve it quickly under all circumstances. If you’ve ever tried your hand at non-timed production scheduling, you can likely understand why this would be the case. As in the case of the traveling salesman problem (another NP-hard problem that famously involves finding the shortest route between a set of houses that must all be visited), non-timed production schedules generally lack an obvious linear path through the production floor, meaning that finding the option that yields the shortest product makespan is laborious at best.
It’s the holiday season. You’re planning a big meal for friends and family. You’ve decided on the menu, selected recipes, made a list of ingredients, and identified the tools you need to actually prepare the meal. You’ve made a prep list, blocked off time in your day to actually put the ingredients together and cook. And in completing all these tasks ahead of time, you’ve given yourself enough of a base to finish the meal on-time, within budget, and in the most pleasurable way possible.
It’s summer. You’re planning a big road trip. You’ve consulted maps, charted a route, marked off places to refuel your car, grab a quick bite to eat, maybe use the restroom. You’ve maybe even planned a few alternate routes in case of road construction or other disruptions, and you’ve even simulated your route using GPS, Google Maps, or some other smart mapping platform. And in doing so, you’ve worked ahead of time to ensure the most pleasureable road trip experience and to troubleshoot any potential issues with getting from point A to point B.
You might be asking: What does planning a road trip have to do with manufacturing or global supply chain management? The answer is simple: The ability to successfully plan an undisrupted road trip is not entirely dissimilar to creating table and efficient planned production programs to meet customer demand in a timely manner. Especially in short and mid-term planning, manufacturing companies have to account for the ability to receive orders, allocate resources and production sites, ensure inventory, and meet delivery timetables, all based on a number of rules and restraints in the production cycle.
In any business, the right proportion of personnel and resources are critical drivers in fostering productivity, efficiency, and success in both the short and long-term. Companies must have the right people in the right positions with access to the right tools in order to ensure tasks are completed effectively, on-schedule, and with a high-degree of accuracy and quality. Shortcomings or misallocations in either personnel or resources can spell disaster for companies, particularly those competing in variant-rich industries on a large, global scale.
Much the same can be said for OEMs in the automotive supply chain especially when it comes to allocating machines and resources within a given hub for planned production programs. Planners and managers must leverage a finely-tuned strategy of available machines and resources in order to create effective short and mid-term planning platforms. Such platforms are then critical in ensuring on-time delivery, combating potential bottlenecks or breakdowns, and fostering robust, efficient production programs with the visibility and agility necessary in today’s ever-evolving supply stream.
Principles like machine and resource scheduling - along with intelligent, integrated planning solutions like job shop scheduling - provide planners and managers with the insights necessary to properly assign production programs based on a number of defined parameters, restraints, and rules.
Today’s blog entry features a brief Q&A with flexis Vice President of Research Hansjörg Tutsch about flexis’ job shop management and scheduling solution.
In today’s global, automotive supply chain, end-to-end (E2E) visibility is a core driver in promoting growth and profitability, and flexis JSS platform is a key value proposition for companies in leveraging a lean, streamlined supply stream. With its flexibility in medium and short term planning, flexis JSS ensures transparency and agility for production programs and allows planners to take control of their planning strategies for increased customer satisfaction.
As such, Tutsch believes flexis’ JSS solution should be a top priority for companies to enhance productivity in a competitive industry. We began our discussion about JSS solutions with Tutsch discussing the status of digitalization and production in today’s automotive supply chain and how JSS solutions fit into that conversation.
It’s summer and that means my family is preparing for a week-long road trip we take each year to relax, unwind, and visit parts of the country we have yet to experience. As part of the planning, we all gather around a table with a map, chart a course, discuss the pros and cons of the route, and the places we want to visit, as well as our budget, time constraints, and other resource-based concerns like fuel, food, and lodging. In doing this, we’re able to ensure the easiest, most pleasurable experience for the whole family, as well as troubleshoot any potential issues that may arise as we complete our journey.
What does road trip preparation have to do with the automotive supply chain? Well, the ability to create stable and efficient planned production programs to meet customer demand in a timely manner is not unlike planning my family’s trip. Particularly in short and mid-term planning, OEMs have to account for the ability to receive orders, allocate resources and production sites, ensure inventory, and meet delivery timetables, all based on a number of rules and restraints in the production cycle.
Job shop scheduling solutions, much like the map my family uses to create our route, allow planners and managers to plot out parameters for optimized production programs ahead of time to combat bottlenecks and disruptions and ensure lean, efficient production cycles for on-time delivery.