Production planning: a necessity for the digital transformation of the factory

Production planning: a necessity for the digital transformation of the factory

Michele Bollini October 15, 2021
Production planning: a necessity for the digital transformation of the factory

Activity planning is an important aspect in all areas, both corporate and personal.

If this concept is virtually accepted or at least perceived by anyone who carries out activities in which the economic aspect is relevant, we do not always pass from convictions to facts.

The issue becomes more complicated when more people are involved and therefore, in addition to the conviction of the individuals, it is also necessary to share techniques, information and the planning system.

Speaking of production planning, the company often has a poor culture in this regard, both in the setting phase and at the operational level. In the context of the digital transformation of the Factory, an integration tool that governs planning is increasingly necessary.

The purpose of the Production Planning process

The main purpose of production planning is to guarantee the customer:

  • the agreed delivery terms - On Time Delivery (the goal is to exceed 90%)
  • the qualitative / quantitative specifications of the product itself (Quality Assurance), with particular attention to non-standard Products (Special Products)

and monitor internally:

  • budget
  • milestone
  • outsourced activities
  • unexpected events and related solutions### Modalità di attuazione del processo di Pianificazione della Produzione

The implementation of the Production Planning takes place through an activity plan that defines:

  • operational sequences and correlations between activitie (carried out in parallel, in sequence or linked to activities of other departments)
  • the allocation of resources and / or plants assigned to carry out the activities
  • tracking of milestones
  • punctual communication of changes to the plan (delays, over-allocations)

Role of a Production Planning system

Here are some key components of the Production Planning system:

  • Sales & Operations Planning - The collaborative planning process starts from the interaction between Sales and Operations at both the setup and operational levels. Given the difficulty of this crucial phase in setting up a good plan, it is essential that the system significantly facilitates its development
  • Planning and Control - Planning is useless if you do not know the real feasibility of what is foreseen with due advance (availability of material and production capacity in the first place), in addition to the actual progress of what is already in production . Our planning system must therefore communicate both with the other management systems (ERP, MRP, MES)
  • Interaction in a “Closed Loop” perspective or to react quickly to the feedback received from the field and at the same time create value along the entire life cycle of the product
  • Planning reports - It is necessary to have the lists always updated, automatically linked to the changes in the activity plan, through which to clarify the real priorities as well as what needs to be done, for when and who is responsible for it. It is at this level that the theme of the digitization of information also fits: key words in this sense are “paperless & seamless” (ie: without paper and without interruptions)
  • Updating of data: this activity, necessary to guarantee the correctness and punctuality of the information necessary for planning, ** must be as automated as possible and / or obtained from other company information sources:
    • Forecasts and Sales Orders from ERP
    • Work Orders, Purchase Orders and Goods Receipts from ERP
    • maintenance of MRP parameters
    • information from BOMs and Work Cycles
    • reports of Missing Production
    • progress status of the connected machines of the Production Line through IIoT protocols (eg MQTT)
    • other information related to events recorded in the management / ERP systems of the company (e.g. issue of the order or goods receipt)

The gradual evolution from unstructured management to a shared tool

There is a tendency, especially at the SME level, to turn primarily to “home-made” planning solutions using the individual productivity tools available (a spreadsheet or a Project Management tool).

This approach, although the result is not optimal, still allows the company to take action and therefore gradually increase awareness of the need to have an increasingly advanced tool.

How to choose the planning tool

From our experience, combining our specific skills and listening to the opinions of our Customers and Prospects, we can indicate the following significant points to be taken into consideration for the selection of a Planning tool:

  1. Well-designed user interface, clear and with the fewest interactions needed to perform the most common operations (each extra step is a cost)
  2. Agility in setting up and updating plans (fast reaction to changes with adjustment of planning information)
  3. Simulation environment of the current and future state of the company
  4. Integration with the company information system and with the production line to guarantee** timeliness and automation of processes and data flows** between the various departments (Production, R&D, Procurement, Sales) and towards the Customer and Contractors
  5. Archive of historical planning and final data and technical documents for:
    • qualitative analysis of processes (through reporting tools and Machine Learning algorithms)
    • replication (reuse) of standard planning areas or those already tested in the past (especially for the production of Variants and Special Products

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