Training for Advanced Planning and Scheduling Software (Part 2)

Draft Procedures for Ongoing Use

While your software will undoubtedly come with documentation, it will be somewhat general in nature, designed to be of value to a wide range of different customers in different industries with different scheduling goals and objectives. As you train with your company’s actual model and data, focused on your company’s goals, take advantage of the situation to draft company specific operating procedures.

The procedures should provide step-by-step instructions on all aspects of generating a schedule. At a minimum, the instructions should document how to input / transfer data to the software, how to generate schedules, and how to create output (for example dispatch lists for the shop floor) for customers of the scheduling process.

Training Relative to Issues Raised During Initial Ongoing Use

Once your staff receives detailed training and starts following the scheduling procedures for ongoing use, they need to generate schedules at least daily using the software. As they use the software, “issues” will arise. Some of the issues will be the result of inaccuracies or incompleteness in the original model. Others will result from incomplete training. Still others will be the result of change in the manufacturing environment (e.g. higher order volumes, different order mixes, revised methods and manufacturing procedures). You should track issues and plan on an additional round of training to help practitioners deal with them.

Training in What-if Scenarios / Creative Use

Eventually, staff members will be comfortable in the process of generating plans and schedules, and recipients of the schedules will be happy with the output that they are receiving. At this time, your planning and scheduling staff members will be ready for advanced training. Advanced training typically focuses on the generation and comparison of what-if scenarios.

As the name suggests, Advanced Planning and Scheduling software is used for generation of plans / schedules. However, you’ll achieve the most significant benefits when you use the software to help make better business decisions. In order to generate good schedules, you’ve build a model of the interplay of your order mix / load and your capacity. You can now use the model to try out a myriad of operational decisions before you actually move forward with the cost and risk of implementing those decisions. A non-exhaustive list of some of these decisions might be: when should we work overtime, when should we hire or layoff staff, when should we promise this order to customers, how will accepting this “hot” order impact other orders, how should we work around required maintenance on this key piece of equipment, should we invest in additional pieces of capital equipment.

Training in What-if Scenario involves showing users how to modify underlying data (e.g. add a proposed new piece of equipment) for as many what-if scenarios as can be identified. Training then shows users how to re-generate schedules, save various scenarios under different names, compare the scenarios on a wide range of business metrics, and use software reports, graphs and other analysis tools to pick the best alternative.

Supplemental Business Training

Sometimes identifying possible what-if scenarios and choosing the best alternative among many is easier said than done. In many organizations, staff members in different areas of the company have different perspectives on what constitutes acceptable alternative business decisions. Training can help bridge this gap.

Two kinds of training are often helpful. The first type of training seeks to broaden the business perspective of planning and scheduling department staff. This perspective helps them better identify and pick from alternate business decisions that meet the needs of the entire company as a whole, rather than individual departments. The second type of training seeks to build inter-departmental teams tasked with interacting with the planning and scheduling software. Rather than placing the onus for scenario analysis solely on planning and scheduling staff, this type of training seeks to develop inter-departmental teams. Team members can then help planning and scheduling staff with the development and analysis of what-if alternatives.