Implementing Advanced Planning and Scheduling Software (Part 1)

Congratulations! You’ve just purchased a new advanced production scheduling (APS) system. Such a system has the potential to radically transform for the better the way you do business. This post discusses how to implement such a system in the most effective manner possible, in a way that maximizes the system’s value, minimizes your risk, and gets you benefits as quickly as possible.

The steps we recommend that you go through in implementing production scheduling / advanced planning and scheduling software are described in more detail below:

1. Review of Business Goals

The first step in any implementation should be a review of your measurable business goals for the project. The structuring of your scheduling model and the thrust of your implementation will be toward satisfying these goals. Simply stating “We want to schedule better” will not give you the focus you need to achieve quantifiable benefits. You should also develop a specific, detailed time line for reaching these goals.

2. Review of Prototype Scheduling Module

If your vendor has created a prototype scheduling module as part of your software evaluation, you’ll want your vendor consultant to help review the model relative to the business goals of your organization. You should note any gaps in the model’s ability to help you meet your goals, and put a plan in place to close those gaps.

3. Discussion of Other Applicable Software Features

Once you’ve reviewed the model, you may want your vendor consultant to discuss other software features that might help you achieve your goals. Most advanced production scheduling systems have a wide range of features designed for customers in diverse industries. A review of all of these features will be very time consuming, and not in your best interests. Trust your vendor consultant to use his or her expertise to concentrate on features that will help you reach your stated goals.

4. Develop a Data Plan

You need data to support the applicable features and functionality of your advanced production scheduling software. Without “clean”, current data, you can’t schedule effectively. You should put in place a plan to provide data to the software on both a one time and an ongoing basis. You will type at least some of this data directly into the software. Often you will transfer some of this data from other data bases or systems. Your vendor should be qualified to help you as much or as little as you require with data transfer tasks.

5. Debug Data

Invariably you will encounter errors and inaccuracies in the data input to and transferred to the production scheduling software. The APS software should have error checking routines that filter out data that is obviously wrong. However, no data scrubbing is perfect, and the software won’t catch all “dirty” data. Therefore, you should build “rough” schedules for initial review. You don’t have to make these schedules perfect, but they should allow you to verify data for accuracy. Based on what you learn, make necessary modifications to the data and to the interface.

6. Finalize Scheduling Approach

Once your scheduling model is loaded with real amounts of reasonably accurate data, it is time for you to finalize the scheduling approach you will use. Most advanced production scheduling software supports a wide range of different scheduling algorithms and approaches. The scheduling approach you choose will be highly dependent upon your goals for the project. You may want help from your vendor consultant. Ask the consultant to explain reasonable alternatives, and help you chose the approach that will work best for you.

Look for more implementation steps in the next post.