There is no Middle Way in Supply Chain Planning and Production Scheduling

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There is no Middle Way in Supply Chain Planning and Production Scheduling

Why are some production companies still doing their planning and scheduling manually – with the help of Excel?  The answer lies in a lack of competent software that can deliver realistic and feasible planning and scheduling. Even in the era of Industry 4.0. this field of expertise has still not received sufficient software support. What can this be attributed to?

All the employees and resources (factories, production resources, transportation resources, logistics centers) work in accordance with a set schedule. With thousands of products, all containing very different properties, numerous process / planning and scheduling restrictions and work steps, it is almost impossible to execute such astronomical planning and scheduling calculations manually.

MES and ERP systems are also not practicable for such complex calculations – software constructions and algorithms are not enough. Many well-known software companies have tried developing software solutions for production scheduling and supply chain planning. Most failed. Especially when it came to mapping rules and restrictions.

Gebhardt Planungsabteilung scaled Realistic and feasible planning and scheduling is only possible with a 100% exact mapping of the production in the planning and scheduling software (Photo: Gebhardt Fördertechnik GmbH)

Mapping of Properties and Restrictions

The ability to map real conditions is an essential requirement for planning and scheduling software and is the only way to guarantee realistic and feasible planning and scheduling results. However, process mapping presents an extremely complex challenge to a software developer because most mid- and large sized companies have a wide range of products and each product in turn may have numerous and varying properties. Additionally, the planning and scheduling must consider hundreds of raw material suppliers, different production processes, resources, routes, etc. And there are different rules for supply chain logistics, e.g. inventory management , customer management, transport resources/routes, and so on.

Here are some of the features that must be considered and mapped:



Raw materials / semi-finished goods / finished goods:

Material / product properties, alternative material and their selection rules, item priority, supplier delivery capabilities, alternative suppliers, replenishment lead times, transport routes, various transport resources – contingent upon destination, volume, container capacity, delivery schedule (day, hour, minute), transport resource selection according to cost or delivery time, the delivery times for individual purchase orders, purchase lot sizes, container sizes, current inventory levels and future fluctuations, target inventory level, minimum inventory, shelf life, purchase plans, and many more.


The production sites of individual products, criteria for factory selection (by product, distance, delivery time, costs….), multi-level finite capacity scheduling (main, multi- and sub-resources, employees), alternative resources, alternative resource selection criteria, machine maintenance dates, downtimes, repair times, the changeover time matrix (to optimize machine changeover times), time restrictions and other process related restrictions, parallel and/or branching – merging processes, production lot sizes, merging of production lots, order priorities, rush orders, customer priorities, order assignment rules per resource, customer, order type, capacity utilization and availability, resource validity conditions, etc.

Material logistics:

Logistic center networks decided according to customer / area, distance, target inventory, minimum inventory levels for raw materials / finished goods, automatic inventory replenishment rules, varying delivery times from individual factories, transport routes to customers, transport resource capacities, departure schedules (day, hour, minute), the delivery times for individual customer orders, the fill rate for individual transport resources, transport resource selection according to cost or delivery time, etc.


The mapping of all the above rules and restrictions must be precise and correct – there is no middle way – otherwise the planning and scheduling will be incorrect… and ineffective.

Orchestrated End-to-End Supply Chain Planning and Production Scheduling (SCP und APS)

If one considers the endless number of possible combinations for process rules and restrictions, the calculation effort required is staggering, and to try and solve it with mathematical optimization formulas is more than questionable. In manufacturing industries, the products, processes, and methods are in constant flux and creating a patchwork of adjustments for such formulas quickly leads to a dead end.

Asprova’s SCP and APS systems were developed in over 30 years of intensive cooperation with Japan’s leading lean companies. The requirements of such lean companies are especially exacting in terms of optimizing the delivery reliability, inventory, manufacturing and logistic costs, and resource productivity.

Asprova software is rule-based and has almost 10.000 standard parameters and properties which can be customized to tailored to the customer’s needs.  The order assignment rules for individual products, materials, resources, workstations, inventory, customers, and the entire planning and scheduling logic is very flexible and can be individually adjusted.  With such outstanding capabilities, rules and restrictions can be precisely mapped without the need for programming and deliver an orchestrated end-to-end planning and scheduling system. The system is a “White Box” – the entire setting is logically consistent and easily understandable to the planner/user, who can promptly react to any changes in the factory or supply chain.

Even with such an advanced design and software systematic capability, the time it takes to implement Asprova is surprisingly short.