Can’t We Develop Our Own Planning and Scheduling Software (Part 1)

“We are thinking of developing our own planning and scheduling software”. Over the years we’ve heard a lot of prospective customers make this statement. Does it make sense? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. It all gets back to what you want to accomplish.

The primary benefits of advanced planning and scheduling software are better decisions that improve customer service and sales, cut costs, or reduce assets employed. These better decisions come from the visibility provided by an accurate, predictive model. The visibility helps you make better decisions today (about the sequence on machines and how you use manpower, material and other resources), that meet the needs of your customers and avoid problems in the future.

You may primarily care about a “line up” for your machines or people for a few shifts that doesn’t consider the future. If this is the case, yes you can develop your own production scheduling tool. Excel might work fine. We’ve encountered some pretty neat spreadsheets written by practitioners.

Typically, however, the benefits of scheduling better for a few shifts are not great. As you go further out on the time horizon, or start trying to schedule more resources, even the limited benefits of an Excel based approach become harder to get. An infinite, spreadsheet based approach is just too time consuming to manage effectively.

The real benefits come when you extend your planning and scheduling horizon. This visibility into the future allows you to make the right decisions today that keep you from getting into big trouble in the future.

If you want this kind of benefit, you need software that schedules finitely and considers real world constraints. The software must simultaneously handle all of the relevant constraints in your business, be they machine, people, tooling, material, or other constraints. The software must generate schedules rapidly and take the burden off the user. It must, however, allow the user to easily interact with the software, and add his or her expertise to the scheduling process.