Let’s face it, buying into and implementing an Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) System is not a light decision to make. We, at PlanetTogether, want to show you the way to do it smoothly and without too much of the hassle or risk you may experience otherwise.
So, what are some of the problems/challenges when implementing planning and scheduling software?
Let’s talk about time. How long will it take to implement APS? Will it take too long? Will it take forever? You’re not alone if you’re wondering about this, but the answer is no, it won’t take too long and it will definitely not take forever. There will be a feasible timeline, usually around 2 to 3 months when you dedicate a few hours per week to the project. The key, is good project and scope management in which the client, meaning you, knows exactly what data they want and is able to focus on critical details first. We believe that when you try to tackle too much at a time, the timeline grows longer and more complex, and it may slow down the results you desperately seek. By focusing on the critical few objectives you can ensure you’ll meet them as fast as possible. For more on timelines and APS click here.
Now that we have taken care of how long it takes to implement a scheduling software, we can move on to integrating APS to an existing ERP system. They key thing to keep in mind is that if your ERP system has a database, an API or can export data to a file then integration will be possible. It’s actually also very common for APS to be pre-integrated to an ERP system which will speed the launch time, requiring only configurations to adapt to your special needs. Read more on transitioning from old software to APS here.
When implementing a planning software you’ll wonder can APS mimic my environment? How long will it take to reschedule if something needs adjusting like when a machine fails? These are natural things to wonder about when you work with capacity planning and change management. It is important for you to know about the top 5 constraints we encounter when working with APS. First is modeling machine constraints, then labor constraints, tooling constraints, material constraints and lastly, flow constraints. We encounter more complexity around machines, labor and flow, but regardless, it is a joint effort between vendor and client to identify these early and arrive at an effective solution. We think the only way to really know whether an APS system can realistically create schedules for your business it to prove it out. That’s why we recommend a “proof of concept” project as the place to start. This way, you can invest minimal time, but enough to know if the solution will really work for you -- and to ensure it’s easy to use.
Prior to trying a system in a hands-on proof-of-concept, you may wonder how complex APS is. Is production planning too confusing? Will my employees find APS hard to use? Since your production process has many nuances, your APS will have to be flexible enough to accommodate your needs. This implies a certain level of complexity. The good news, however, is that most of the complexity is in the setup rather than the use of the system -- as long as it has the flexibility to manage your production constraints automatically. So it’s important that your vendor can demonstrate an ability to setup the system to simulate your business, thus making it easy for the system’s users. We do want to be clear: your planners who use the system do need to like computers and use computers regularly to be able to succeed when using APS. The process also needs to involve your scheduler from the beginning, and it will be this person who motivates the team and manages the use of your APS.
You may also ask yourself about upgrading. Will upgrading my APS disrupt my ERP or vice versa? Upgrading is almost always a simple step, there will usually be a simple wizard to guide you through it. Even so, to ensure stability of any production system it’s ideal to install upgrades in a test environment where the users can try out the new version before cutting over. Keep in mind that when you work with APS, unlike an ERP software, you’ll have far fewer users and so upgrading the advance scheduling software won’t affect many employees’ routines and tasks. Less users means less training and thus upgrading is easier. Many systems these days also offer self-upgrading clients so it’s just a matter of installing a new version on your server and the clients upgrade automatically. Find out more on user management here.
Finally, we arrive at one of the reasons why you choose APS in the first place: to manage lots of data. You will wonder, do we have the data that we need? Think back to those constraints, those are your guide into defining what data you need. Once you know your constraints, you can model your APS scenarios to these and it becomes very clear what data to import. Some of the common things missing in the beginning will be setup times, and machine and employee detailed capabilities. However, when you try the proof of concept, you find out the data that is most critical to you and your company’s needs. Use these critical data points to begin with. You can always add over time, but trying to tackle too much from the start will most likely cause delays and higher complexity. If you want to read more on realistic schedules and data, click here.