Frequently Asked Questions about PlanetTogether

What industries do you work with?

In the past 20+ years, we’ve earned our stripes in a wide range of manufacturing industries. Here are a few:

What prerequisites should a company meet internally before installing APS?

APS is a “data-intensive” tool requiring the right information to be accurate. Fortunately, most companies already have 99% of the data needed to get started and you can improve it over time. One benefit of an APS system is that it provides an incentive to clean-up and standardize data that was previously under-utilized and somewhat neglected.

You’ll need routings and bills-of-material for discrete manufacturers or formulas and run-rates for process-manufacturers. For inventory-constrained scheduling, it’s also important to have a reliable inventory control process with accurate on-hand quantities. Also, if you follow a daily planning cycle, you’ll need to track production completions daily, as well; if weekly, then production updates can be tracked weekly.

How long for implementation?

An implementation typically takes from one to three months depending upon data readiness and how busy your people are.

We’re not sure if we need “finite” scheduling. When is finite better than infinite?

While rough-cut infinite capacity planning is useful for planning labor and capacity levels long-term, most manufacturers find it far more value to use finite constraint-based planning. Unless you plan to schedule a very low volume of production orders (maybe 25) and can manually make drag-and-drop adjustments, finite scheduling will deliver many benefits infinite planning will not. Even if you have enough capacity on average, there are likely “clumps” of workload that will create temporary bottlenecks. Finite scheduling gives you the insight of where and when theses bottlenecks will occur. And you understand the impact of these changes on the order schedule, which enables you to produce detailed, actionable plans that invariably save valuable time on the shop floor and planning department.

How do you measure APS success?

While there are some common measures, it depends on your business: what makes you more competitive; how your costs are distributed; and your customer demand requirements. At the outset of an APS implementation, it is essential to identify your critical success factors (CSF's) and determine how APS can help. For example, if on-time shipments is a problem, then you’ll want to track due-date performance. If running out of materials in production occurs too often, then track the frequency of these interruptions on the shop floor. If excessive WIP or long-lead times is a problem, then setup metrics for make-spans and queue times.  APS addresses the time planners spend to update schedules. By tracking time-spent before and after the implementation, you can also manage and measure APS success.

Who benefits most from an APS tool?

The bigger the problems to solve, the bigger the APS benefits. If you miss delivery dates frequently, stumble over quoting accuracy, miss competitive lead times, run high inventory levels, spend too much time managing schedules, or experience frequent changeovers on key equipment, then APS is a high-value solution.

What’s more, high numbers of SKUs or custom orders, multiple production resources, expensive production equipment, frequent changes in customer orders and engineering change orders, long setup times, job batching requirements, and complex manufacturing flows that defy manual scheduling call for APS. Worse yet, if you face product quality-related problems from schedule mistakes, the right APS is triage and long-term care.

Why do we need an APS tool if we already have an ERP system?

ERP systems are ideal in managing transactions, like order entry or inventory control. ERP evolved from accounting systems to keep track of what has happened versus planning for what is going to happen. As a result, the architecture is optimized for transaction processing rather than large-scale, high-volume data analytics. Consider a typical MRP re-gen can take hours or days while an APS re-gen usually takes a few seconds. This is a critical usability factor because no planner can afford to wait hours, let alone days, after every schedule change.

Better still, the design and development expertise in an APS system is unique and specialized, and hard to come by. Most ERP development projects leave planning as an afterthought and only address it superficially. APS is all about the details. That’s why most “classic” scheduling in ERP systems goes unused; it is too simplistic to affect real improvement. APS solves critical problems and drives productivity.

When I’m evaluating APS systems how should I compare them?

Focus on one goal in your APS evaluation: solving your critical business issues. Begin by identifying problems to solve, then determine if the APS can “model” your constraints and, ultimately, solve your problems. Create a priority list of two elements:

(1) Your APS-related critical business issues, and (2) Rules and constraints planners need to consider when creating schedules.

Work with your APS vendor to go through these elements in detail. Then, consider technology, architecture, and total cost of ownership. You need current technology and architecture that fits well with other systems and expertise of IT personnel. Data volume can also be a critical factor. Before choosing a system, verify that it can handle your volume of orders. To be usable, a drag-and-drop reschedule in a fully loaded schedule should be able to shift other work out of the way and take just a few seconds to process, not minutes. Where cost is concerned, implementation costs can be very high for systems that require extensive programming to build models so be sure these costs are considered along with the cost of the software itself. Finally, be sure that if you need multiple planners to be able to login and make changes concurrently and/or if you need support for multi-plant coordination, verify that your APS supports thisunlike ERP, most APS systems are single-planner, single-plant systemsso shop carefully.

How difficult is it for a typical production planner to learn to use an APS tool?

The learning curve probably depends more on the person than on the system. If you choose someone who is comfortable with computers, understands your production constraints, and is a quick-learner it can take just a matter of weeks with very little training to become proficient. On the other hand, if these characteristics are absent it can be a much longer transition.

What industries is Advanced Planning & Scheduling suited for?

We have installed scheduling software in hundreds of factories in many different industries and we’ve created Advanced Planning & Scheduling to be extremely adaptable making it capable of handling most production scheduling problems. Some of the industries that we have experience with include: Food & Beverage, Chemical, Job Shop, medical equipment manufacturing, industrial equipment manufacturing, coffee roasting, high-tech, printing, forges, injection molders, and truck equipment manufacturing/automotive. If you’d like to confirm that our system will work for you please give us a callwe have scheduling experts standing by to speak with you about your specific challenges.

Does PlanetTogether allow for manual schedule adjustments?

Absolutely! This is one of PlanetTogether's greatest strengthsthe ease with which you can make changes in a graphical drag-and-drop environment. While most scheduling systems allow limited drag-and-drop, PlanetTogether takes it one step further with “capacity-constrained” drag-and-drop. This means that when you make changes, PlanetTogether adjusts the schedule to ensure that capacity is not violated and material constraints are followed. This allows you to make changes quickly and easily and also see the impact of your changes instantly. There are also many other manual and automatic scheduling tools. Give us a call to take a look at what we can offer you.

Why should we choose PlanetTogether over other systems?

PlanetTogether will do a better job of creating accurate schedules that respect all of your constraints (labor, machines, materials, tools, storage).

PlanetTogether is easier to use due to its “capacity constrained drag-and-drop”.

PlanetTogether is based on the flagship Microsoft platform, the .Net Framework, which means it is more familiar to your users (like Microsoft Office), is widely supported, is easier to integrate with, and has a long lifetime ahead of it.

PlanetTogether is the only true “collaborative” scheduling system that allows multiple planners to be logged on and rescheduling simultaneously so you can work the way you need to as your company grows.

We don’t have any “pegging” information in our ERP system that connects different levels of the bill of material. Will PlanetTogether still be able to coordinate production between work orders or will we have to add these links manually?

PlanetTogether can examine your bill of material for each work order to determine material requirements and then automatically peg material flows across work orders (any number of levels). So even if you don’t have explicit links PlanetTogether will still alert you or reschedule dependent work orders if a supplying work order will be delayed (by drag-and-drop or otherwise). Note that you can also create explicit links between work orders in the event that the intermediate material must be allocated to one or more specific downstream work orders.

Is the system updatable in “real-time” so that our schedule is always accurate?

Yes. PlanetTogether updates instantly whenever it receives information such as the completion of an operation or the breakdown of a machine. The update can be pulled from your ERP system or even come from a direct feed from a labor reporting or shop floor tracking system. PlanetTogether also has its own screens, called “Shop Views” which are designed to show schedules to shop floor personnel and allow for reporting of production.

Can PlanetTogether schedule multiple plants?

Yes. PlanetTogether is a “collaborative” scheduling system that can handle any number of Plants and simultaneous Master Schedulers, Viewers, and What-If users (sold separately). Plants can be scheduled independently or inter-dependently according to your needs.

Will we need a new administrative position to use your software?

No. Most companies find that using PlanetTogether actually greatly reduces the amount of time spent managing production. Time that is now spent expediting orders, consolidating information, and updating spreadsheets can be spent on more pro-active tasks since most of the planning process will be automated. A typical user spends anywhere from one to three hours per day reviewing and adjusting the schedule once PlanetTogether is in use.

What skill set is needed to use PlanetTogether?

It is important that your PlanetTogether scheduler(s) are: (1) very familiar with your production operations and what would make a “good” schedule and (2) reasonably comfortable using computers on a daily basis (Someone familiar with Excel will find PlanetTogether easy to learn).

How much of our team’s time will be required to setup PlanetTogether?

Usually not. Unless you are scheduling several thousands of orders or your servers are aging, PlanetTogether can usually run on your existing hardware.

What size company is PlanetTogether best suited for?

Companies that will find PlanetTogether to be a good “fit” in terms of functionality and return on investment will typically have substantial manufacturing operations with significant equipment investments or large number of orders that need to be coordinated and delivered on-time. As a general rule, companies that are larger than 25 million to one billion USD in annual revenue will find that there is a system level of PlanetTogether that will provide a substantial return on investment.

Will we need a new server for PlanetTogether to run on?

Usually not. Unless you're shceduling several thousand orders or your servers are aging, PlanetTogether can typically run on your existing hardware.

What are the requirements and costs of integrating APS to our ERP system?

Most APS integrations are “bi-directional”, importing data such as: work orders (with attached routings/BOMS/recipes), sale orders, inventory, purchase orders, work centers, equipment, and sometimes employees, and exporting schedule dates for work orders to facilitate ERP visibility and material planning. One thing we’ve learned is that it’s important that integration tools be very flexible since every company uses both their ERP and APS system differently. The typical time to develop an integration from scratch will vary by the amount of data that needs to be shared. We usually expect to spend anywhere from two to four days creating a new integration.

Ready to launch? Call 800.317.8807 or email info@planettogether.com