The factory operations scheduling module of NovaLab’s planning software, xS Planner, offers the interactive planning framework coupled with the fully automated or semi-automated optimization capabilities. The key foci of the factory operations scheduling module can be summarized as follows:

Optimized workstation sequencing

The system can choose between alternative workstations capable of executing a task while optimizing the selected decision criteria in addition to considering the complex relationships between the preceding and succeeding workstations. For example, even for a single part, a succeeding operation may start before the finish of the preceding operation and the relationship depends on the speed of each operation in addition to other factors such as stacking and transportation quantities in the shop floor. Common approaches such as the succeeding workstation starts 30 minutes after the start of the preceding workstation is certainly not going to be enough for the complex and flexible structures such as those of furniture plants. xS Planner’s approach is to automatically determine the overlap durations by considering real life factors.

Workstations, most of the time, are single machines but for xS Planner any resource with a unique id and capable of executing an operation defined in a route of any finished or semi-finished product functions as workstation.

Restricted resource plan generation

In addition to the workstations, various other resources such as molds, operators with a specific capability as well as other apparatus may be constraining. xS Planner factory operations scheduling module can simultaneously take an unlimited variety of restricted resources into account while generating an optimized schedule and considering alternative workstations as well as complex predecessor and successor relationships. The system enables the planners to monitor the utilization of all restricted resources in addition to that of all workstations.

Process based sequencing criteria

For factories consisting of multiple processes where workstations are not product specific but process specific and for those factories manufacturing a high variety of products, it is imperative to be able to sequence operations on each workstation of each process by considering the efficiency priorities of each process which may even be conflicting with the preceding or succeeding processes. Factory operations scheduling module allows planners to define the criteria which defines the desirable attributes of a sequence for a given process and applies these criteria for generating schedules for each workstation of that process while resolving conflicts with preceding and succeeding processes.

Multi-process multi-part planning

A product may consist of many different parts, themselves consisting of many different parts, all manufactured in the same factory. Factory operations scheduling module has an embedded high performance MRP module which dynamically computes the requirements on each part and each operation of each part, and then the system schedules all parts and related operations on the appropriate workstations while resolving complex preceding and succeeding operation relations and multiple resource restrictions. Furthermore, the system is capable of interactively regenerating the whole schedule in a matter of seconds whenever a planner requests a change such as enabling a workstation to work overtime. Such execution speed is especially essential in multi-process multi- part factories because the high-paced environment makes it very difficult to even maintain the inventory level records correctly in contemporary ERP systems. Therefore, even when a correction is made to the inventory levels of some parts, the system can regenerate the schedule for each part and operation in a matter of seconds rather than hours without waiting for the MRP system of the ERP to execute.

Layout constraints

When there are alternative workstations which can execute given operation, the flow of parts through alternative workstations is not only determined by the capabilities of alternative workstations but also by the proximity of those alternatives to the preceding and succeeding workstations. xS Planner factory operations scheduling module lets planners define both the compulsory and preferred flow direction based layout constraints.

Batch based inventory characteristics

Different batches of inventory for the same material may have different characteristics that determine how the manufacturing processes are going to proceed. For example, for the same alloy and radius and therefore same material id, different steel bars may have slightly different lengths due to processing precisions. However, depending on the demand configuration only some of those steel bars may be used for satisfying a specific demand. Furthermore, depending on the characteristics of a specific batch, only a subset of alternative machines may be fit for a manufacturing process. xS Planner factory operations scheduling module has an embedded MRP system which may easily be configured to automatically choose between different batches, and then the operations scheduling system is going to filter the alternative workstations which can process the selected batches.

Manual intervention tools

Sometimes digitally available data does not fully reflect the real-world conditions. For example, a supplier may pass the information that an important raw material delivery is going to be late but that information may not immediately be recorded on the purchase order data available on the ERP system. In such a case, the planner may want to notify the scheduling system that the customer orders consuming that raw material may not start before the late delivery date of the raw material and see overall effects of that late delivery. xS Planner factory operations scheduling module provides a vast set of manual intervention tools. The objective is simple – to always let planners generate optimized schedules reflecting real-world conditions.