Is your ERP System a Planning and Scheduling ‘Fail’?

If you write down the five top rated planning and scheduling software packages and the five top rated ERP systems, you will not find any overlap on the two lists. Because of this, supply chain professionals need to invest up-front time (before the sale) understanding each ERP package’s planning and scheduling functionality. Requirements for planning and scheduling sophistication vary widely, so there is no obvious “best answer” for handling scheduling in ERP. One organization might be able to utilize out of the box ERP with perfectly satisfactory results, while the next organization needs a third party software solution in order to achieve desired results.

The phrase “scheduling sophistication” represents several dimensions of planning complexity.

Optimizations

First, there is the dimension of optimization criteria. Many basic scheduling systems assume one optimization characteristic. That is, they can solve for the low-cost schedule, or the on-time schedule, or the fewest changes schedule, but they don’t handle scenarios where sometimes the priority is low cost, and other times the priority is on-time. More sophisticated planning and scheduling systems allow users to construct blended, or even situational optimization rules.

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A second dimension of evaluation involves how scheduling systems deal with over capacity situations. Do they allow two hundred hours of production to be scheduled in a one hundred sixty eight hour week? Do they push out some orders, and if so, how do they choose? Do they have the ability to look for “second-preference” machine assignments to offload the overage? What is the logical basis by which materials are assigned to machines?

Understanding Master Data

A third dimension is in understanding where the master data comes from and how it is structured. A robust third party scheduling software system that cannot leverage your ERP and supply chain master data decisions is probably a worse solution than whatever basic capability exists in ERP. Obviously, the implication of this dimension is that if you think you may need a third party or custom software solution, it is a decision that should be compatible with your ERP solution.

Yet another consideration is how the output of the schedule is approved, turned into internal work orders, and communicated to the production floor. This may seem like a pretty minor concern now, but in the days and weeks after ERP go-live on the shop floor, one of the biggest frustrations will be to understand how and where to find information.

The planning and scheduling software decision is an important one, because it has a major impact on both cost and inventory. There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. The way to make the best possible decision is to (a) understand your organization's strategic advantage and how it makes money (b) understand the difference between “value added functionality” and “bells and whistles” and (c) evaluate solutions based on how your organization really operates, not the way you wished it operated. With that knowledge, you will know what rules are important, and what software – ERP or third party - can most effectively handle those types of rules.

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Tom Stephenson

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Tom Stephenson