Implementing Advanced Planning and Scheduling Software (Part 2)

In a previous post we started a discussion of how to implement a production scheduling / advanced planning and scheduling  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.

We continue our list of implementation steps below:

7.    Train Users

Once your model contains real world data, and you’ve decided on a scheduling approach, it is time to train users on the advanced production scheduling software.  You should train users so that they know how to:

  • Run interfaces to transfer data into and out of the software.
  • Manually enter any required data
  • Debug simple data problems.
  • Generate schedules automatically and / or manually.
  • Use the software to identify work projected to be late, and the bottlenecks (resource shortages) which cause late work.
  • Identify potential what-if scenarios that solve problems highlighted by the software.
  • Generate new scenarios by changing the underlying data and / or rescheduling.
  • Compare what-if scenarios using common business metrics that reflect organizational goals.
  • Update the schedule based on shop floor production

8.    Creation of Output  (Reporting)

As you and your staff go through the implementation, you should be thinking about output and reporting.  Not all staff members will have the time or the inclination to interact with the production scheduling software.  You must create output that meets their needs.  Depending upon their needs, this output may be electronic or paper based, in report or graphic format.

9.    Draft Procedures for Use

Most likely, you want your production scheduling software to help you solve your company’s unique problems or to help you leverage your company’s distinct competitive advantages.  Therefore, you won’t use the software in exactly the same manner as another company.  While general documentation is important, customized written procedures that reflect an organization’s unique use of the software are by far more valuable.  Not only are such procedures critical for success in the face of personnel changes, but, as discussed below, they can be essential in smoothly transitioning to ongoing use.

10.    Piloting / Ongoing Use

As soon as the necessary groundwork is laid, you and your users should attempt to use the software on an ongoing basis.  Schedulers should follow the scheduling procedures discussed above as they go through this process.  While it would be great if users could identify up front all possible scheduling issues that the software must handle, rarely is this the case.  These issues tend to crop up over time as the software is used.

As you go through the process of using / piloting, you will uncover issues and problems with the model, the data, and your scheduling approach.  Uncovering issues is a natural and necessary part of the implementation process.  You should identify these issues and address them as soon as possible with the help of your vendor consultant and / or your Information Systems staff.

11.    Additional Consulting / Training

Sometimes users require additional consulting and / or training from your vendor’s consulting staff to deal with issues that arise during piloting / ongoing use.  While it would be great if we could plan for all eventualities up front, rarely is this possible.  Typically, you’ll gain new insights into your business as you work with the software, and uncover ideas for scheduling and planning differently.    You may want help implementing these new ideas from your vendor consultant.

12.    Continued Use / Audit Results / Continuous Improvement

Once the software is implemented, you’ll reach a point where the software is helping you manage your business and generating returns.  Congratulations!  Celebrate your accomplishments but don’t declare victory and stop working.  There is more to do.

First, audit your results and try to quantify the benefits you are receiving.  Compare these benefits with the projected return you used to justify the software.

Try to figure out how to get more out of the software.  Use the comparison of planned versus actual return to highlight areas of improvement.  Likewise, think back to the early portion of your implementation when you deliberately decided to put off implementing certain software features.  Might you get even more benefit from the software by implementing this functionality now?