With the smorgasbord of ERP and APS-based scheduling options available today, why are so many manufacturers still relying on whiteboards and spreadsheets? Because even with all their bells and whistles, these scheduling systems fall far short in their claim to “better shop floor scheduling.”

From inherent lag to unreliable estimates, ERP and APS-based scheduling software are missing the key ingredient every shop floor needs: real-time visibility. In truth, their view of what’s happening to a job once it progresses beyond the first few steps is like the difference between yesterday’s newspaper and your smartphone.

When it comes to managing the dynamic nature of a real shop floor, manufacturers need a new approach.

The False Promise of ERP and APS Scheduling

Every manufacturer has attempted the tall order of attacking shop floor production via their ERP software’s scheduling module. And while the ability to integrate production management with financials, supply chain, human resources, and other critical business functions into a single system is appealing for a number of reasons, the process is almost always painful.

Most ERP systems are configured to accommodate accounting needs, not for better visibility into WIP, more effective material allocation, or to handle the complexities of assemblies and subassemblies in most high-mix, low-volume (HMLV) shops today.

On the other side, you have Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) software that is specifically designed to address manufacturing production management. APS software plans and schedules production based on the available capacity, labor, and materials using a variety of scheduling approaches, from demand management to finite capacity scheduling. Sounds promising, but in reality, planning and effective execution in an APS universe are rarely on the same page, more often burdening your shop with a list of priorities that don’t match reality.

The Limitations of ERP and APS Scheduling

While a small number of manufacturers (5-10%) are able to make ERP and APS scheduling work for their businesses, the vast majority of them still struggle with delivering orders on time, even after implementing these expensive systems.

ERP and APS promises often fail to deliver when the rubber meets the road, especially for HMLV job shops that have varying due dates, priorities, quantities, and material and resource requirements. Estimated cycle times require a high degree of accuracy for the resulting schedule to be even remotely usable, which means your setup and runtimes must be precise.

The inherent lag and static nature of these scheduling systems also means that their plans become outdated as soon as one of these factors changes, even if the schedule was accurate to begin with.

Solving these problems can’t be accomplished by tweaking the software implementation, choosing a different module or doubling down: They’re inherent to the scheduling systems themselves, which is why a completely new approach is needed.

Welcome to a Better Way

Shop floors are dynamic environments, where constraints and capacity are constantly changing. A rush work order may come in, a key shop floor manager may get sick, or an extra shift may be added to accommodate the extra work. The tools you use to manage production need to reflect shop floor variability.

The key to better production planning and execution isn’t mastering shop floor scheduling, but rather speeding up the flow of information and materials throughout the shop.

Enter Protected Flow Manufacturing (PFM), a fundamentally different planning and execution technology that doesn’t rely on best-case scenarios.

PFM’s prioritization method is capacity-blind and doesn’t rely solely on due dates to prioritize jobs. Instead, it offers unprecedented visibility into how it’s prioritizing jobs to help you determine where an order is and how it’s progressing; which job to work on next; and how to confidently tell your customers when they will get their order.

PFM doesn’t make decisions for you: It puts the power in the hands of the shop floor managers, giving them actionable intelligence they can combine with their years of experience to make the right decisions, right now.