9/14/15, 4:44 PM
For managers who are considering a change in their manufacturing facility, simulating the proposed improvements has been a standard practice for years. While basic simulations can involve getting a few interns to act out the part of new machinery while someone times the process with a stopwatch, many companies require more sophisticated modeling programs.
In many cases, modeling is included as one of the features on APS software packages. These programs are able to test out new ideas in order processing, maintenance schedules, equipment and personnel positioning, and even factory layout, without actually moving a single piece of equipment. They are based on metrics for accurate, fact-based decision making.
Simulations are a vital part of production planning for any modern production facility. While an experienced manager certainly knows enough about his or her factory to create an efficient production schedule and deal with changes as they come up, it’s necessary to have a reliable way to solve problems, test new ideas and establish priorities without a large investment.
Often, these changes are not large-scale improvements. While it’s certainly possible to use APS software to determine the optimal location for a new production facility or the best way to redesign a production pod, day to day production planning tends to focus on smaller issues.
Setting a maintenance schedule is a prime example of how APS software can use simulations to optimize a manufacturing facility. While managers are capable of making up a good maintenance schedule without the help of software, most realize that there are several factors that can create problems throughout an entire facility. For example, a sudden rush order can throw off a carefully crafted maintenance schedule as technicians are diverted from scheduled work to prepare a line for an overrun. Any maintenance that was planned for the line has to be delayed, potentially creating problems throughout the whole factory.
APS software, however, can devise several different maintenance schedules that simulate what needs to be done in the event of a rush order, sudden mechanical failure, or even a staff shortage. Instead of management spending hours creating reactive contingency plans, production planning software can take a well-planned maintenance schedule and quickly modify it to fit a number of scenarios. With the right data, the APS system can even create the original maintenance schedule.
For production managers, these simulations provide a much-needed alternative plan for the hundreds of unexpected things that can go wrong in a factory. Simulations can also give a manager the information that he or she needs to make decisions about a facility’s future. Using APS software to show the effects of different worker schedules, for example, is a simple way to test out new shift arrangements or leave policies without upsetting employees. Building a simulation to include an additional front or back end production line can allow a manager to see if increasing production capacity would really create more product or just move a limiting factor to another area of the production facility.