We review the must-have features of an advanced planning and scheduling solution for manufacturing environments

Armed with data from your shop floor, you have the power to transform factory floor productivity.

Accessing accurate, real-time shop floor data is the key to unlocking improvements in labour productivity and plant utilisation. If you’re looking into data collection for your factory, we recently highlighted five must-have features for a shop-floor data collection (SFDC) system.

Collecting data from your factory floor gives you the foundation to measure the fundamental manufacturing key performance indicators (KPIs), including overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), overall labour effectiveness (OLE), right first time, scrap/yield and on-time in full. Tracking these metrics and interrogating the raw data enables manufacturers to identify productivity and quality issues, diagnose their root causes and then fix them.

The benefits of implementing SFDC don’t stop there. Having accurate data equips you with the ability to perform advanced planning and scheduling (APS).


Before looking at the must-have features for APS, it’s worth clarifying how planning and scheduling integrates with resource planning.

Manufacturers use manufacturing resource planning (MRP) systems to help manage the high-level process of raising the works orders and purchase orders they need to make something. This process in itself can become quite complex when there are multiple bills of materials (BOMs) and delivery lead times.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems build on MRP functionality to add enterprise-level capabilities, such as managing suppliers, invoicing, accounts and inventory. MRP is a subset of ERP.

Having identified demand to manufacture goods, you need to schedule the work in the factory. Based on availability of materials, plant and people, you need to allocate work to specific dates/times and plan the detail – i.e. “this job will start on machine X at this time”. APS takes information from the ERP/MRP system, and, within the constraints of your factory, optimally schedules and plans the work. APS performs finite capacity planning based on modelling all of the production constraints.

It should be clear that the job of APS is very different to that of ERP/MRP. However, for best results each system should share data. For example, APS needs to know when materials will be available and when the finished product must be ready; ERP/MRP should have this information. That’s why Mestec’s solution is designed to plug and play with ERP/MRP. However, if you don’t have an ERP/MRP system in place, Mestec’s solution can take care of resource planning as well as the production scheduling.

See how Mestec’s solution can boost the performance of your ERP

Must-have features for APS

You need to ensure you have the following four capabilities in place for effective production scheduling.

  1. Accurate times for task completion

To enable realistic scheduling, you need to know how long it takes to complete specific tasks. Your design engineers may have a view on how long a task will take, as will your cost engineers – but both of these times will be estimates. For best results, you need to collect actual data from the shop floor, typically by using a shop floor data collection system.

  1. Real-time view of work in progress

If you don’t know how you’re doing on your current list of things to do, you can’t possibly prioritise what’s coming next. You need real-time information about what jobs have started, what has finished, what is on hold and why. An integrated shop floor data collection system will provide this level of intelligence on your factory floor.

  1. Realistic capacity planning model

For any tool to derive an accurate production schedule, it needs to know about the constraints in your factory. These include labour, materials, shift patterns, working hours, floor space, power constraints – in fact, anything and everything that constrains your ability to make. The APS environment must be able to capture and model all of these constraints and then use the model to generate a plan.

Mestec’s APS supports fully integrated day-to-day scheduling, constraint-based capacity planning, what-if analysis and scenario planning.

  1. A process to share, monitor and update

Having generated the plan, it’s good for nothing if it sits on a planner’s desk on a piece of paper or as an excel spreadsheet. Any planning schedule will evolve with time. For any plan to be effective it must be shared with everybody involved in its execution, preferably in real-time. Only that way will you have visibility of adherence to the plan and have a chance to immediately address issues that cause slippage.

Mestec’s APS functionality ensures plans are visible in real-time across your organisation. This approach ensures a single version of the truth; everybody can work from the same plan and multi-user access ensures all stakeholders can work from and edit the same plan. Production managers can use a simple drag-and-drop UI to update their Gantt charts, ensuring time-critical production scheduling.

To facilitate sharing the plan, Mestec provides live feeds to touchscreens on the shop floor. Operators and production managers see real-time status of the production process, how long sub-tasks take to complete, and what they need to adjust to ensure on-time customer deliveries.

Mestec provides all of these ‘must-have’ features in a single integrated system, which is a unique approach alongside its shop floor data collection and analysis solution.

Ready for a demo?

We’re currently hosting a series of webinars, which will enable you to quickly and efficiently see the power of Mestec’s factory floor solutions.
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