Four Keys to Increase Production Throughput by Visualizing Scheduling Constraints

Scheduling Image

Raw material shortages and chaotic supply chains can wreak havoc on manufacturing schedules and have planners scrambling for solutions. But with the right visibility into processes, schedulers can better assess how effectively production time is used, detect potential conflicts, and identify bottlenecks and constraints – and it can be a game changer.

Profit Point recently helped a global specialty chemicals manufacturer improve its production scheduling process at a batch facility in Germany. By listening to the customer to thoroughly understand the issues, we helped them add schedule visibility and granularity that were missing from their previous method – and achieved a 20% increase in throughput. On top of that, the payback period for the project was just two months, in large part because we helped them optimize their existing out-of-the-box Supply Chain Management solution, AspenTech’s aspenONE.

Let’s take a deeper dive into four key things we did to make this happen.

1. Visualized to Make Constraints More Obvious

This batch facility relied on spreadsheets and rules of thumb for schedule creation, limiting its potential since the schedulers lacked visibility into raw material shortages. We added a coloring scheme to the planning board, and color-coding batches based on projected material shortages, enabling the schedulers to anticipate them earlier and make proactive changes. We used a similar approach to enable what-if analysis capabilities that help the schedulers visualize batch lateness, coloring batches relative to when they need to be loaded onto a truck.

These changes helped provide earlier and more in-depth what-if analysis for resequencing batches, which wasn’t possible using the previous system because of how long the analysis would have taken. When schedulers can see at a glance what can and cannot be pushed out, they can deliver more accurate responses in minutes instead of hours.

2. Shared the Visibility with a Wider Audience

Once facility schedulers had identified gaps that could be leveraged for increased production, Operations team members could identify additional inefficiencies. The spreadsheet scheduling system didn’t provide insight into packaging operations, so schedulers couldn’t tell when two blenders would be finished at the same time, leading to situations where one blender would remain full – and out of operation – while the second occupied the packaging line for hours.

Better visibility shared across teams delivers crucial looks into how each decision on the process impacts others. So once these coloring schemes which projected raw material shortages and streamlined batch schedule evaluations were implemented, their positive impact created a ripple effect on several plant performance indicators, including increases in on-time and in-full deliveries, and improvements in customer service.


ColorCoded Schedule Visualization

Aspen Schedule Explorer: Visualizing Product Schedule and Collaboration


3. Facilitated Collaborative Solutions

Empowering the operations team to take a proactive role and be more involved in the scheduling process was a major benefit of this visualization process, and it supercharged the collaboration and alignment between schedulers and operators.

Utilizing the visualizations created with the Aspen Schedule Explorer tool, the operations team saw an opportunity to add another batch to the schedule with only minor adjustments and no increase in safety risks – a crucial factor in operations’ decision-making. The operations team was inspired by this and volunteered to make it happen. Breaking down those silos was a terrific morale booster.

Where the facility had previously turned away or delayed orders when they didn’t think they could deliver on time, these changes helped speed up delivery, increase reliability, and enabled them to commit to more volume. Instead of a month-long lead time, the facility saw its orders taking only a week or two to deliver.

Simply bringing together teams with diverse roles and varied experiences unlocked trapped value and increased production throughput – as well as leading to a powerful new understanding of the facility’s interconnectedness.

4. Leveraged Comprehensive but Flexible Tools

Helping our customer stakeholders adapt to new systems can be a challenge, especially if they’re averse to change. In this case, the client was already using Aspen Schedule Explorer as its digital manufacturing collaboration platform. ASE is a tool that’s easy to learn and adopt while providing a simple and intuitive visualization is invaluable in making the most of your data.

At Profit Point, we’re big on the principle of “do more with less” when it comes to helping manufacturers maximize their asset utilization and supply chain inefficiencies with quick time-to-value solutions. We’re also fans of helping cultures shift from reactive to proactive, broadening the horizon of what’s possible.

When you make your scheduling constraints more visible, use the right systems to share that information, and empower your teams to use their skills, experience, and knowledge together, it’s like dropping weights you never realized you were carrying.

About Mark Rockey

Mark Rockey is a Production Scheduling and Supply Chain Planning Practice Leader at Profit Point. He has spent 20+ years applying analytic techniques to solve real world problems in network design; production and distribution planning and scheduling; and capacity analysis and design.

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