Lean Manufacturing Planning and Control: Six Benefits of a Cockpit

Manufacturers need to be able to see at a glance how new and rescheduled orders affect their production planning. The lean manufacturing planning and control tool addresses this need.

Scheduling the production of foods that must not contain any traces of nuts is a challenge for any manufacturer. Sunday downtime is the perfect opportunity for cleaning the machines ready for a Monday start. But that is not enough: Manufacturers also need a tool to adjust their production planning.

“You can’t spot the orders for nut-free items simply by looking at the list of customer orders,” says Ferenc Gulyássy, an SAP consultant for supply chain management solutions. Instead, most manufacturers use spreadsheets, which they have to check and recheck before they can finalize an order list to be ready for Monday.

The lean manufacturing planning and control tool batches orders that, for instance, must not contain nuts, require organic ingredients, or meet other specific criteria.

“The origins of lean manufacturing planning and control are in the automotive industry, but the principles are the same across manufacturing,” says Gulyássy. Of the more than 60 customers already using the tool, about 80 percent of them are in the automotive industry.

Six benefits of the tool include:

1. Identify Bottlenecks from the Cockpit

To schedule production, businesses need to know how many orders there are and whether they can process them on time. According to Gulyássy, one question manufacturers constantly ask is: “Do we have a bottleneck?” The tool collates all pending orders and not only works out whether they can all be handled but also measures capacity (see graphic). It can level capacity and display this information in the cockpit.

“If the cockpit shows that a production line is overloaded, specific orders can be selected and shifted to other slots,” says Gulyássy. Having a graphic that shows straight away the effects of rescheduling an order is one major benefit of the tool, he says. The standard system does have a similar function; it can combine the graphical version of the planning board with the table version and displays capacity and the resulting changes in inventory levels as an embedded function. However, it needs various transactions to do so, he notes.

2. Enhance the Standard System Without Needing Interfaces

Competitors are already offering their own enhancements to the standard system that provide visualizations and capacity management. The disadvantage here, though, is that they mostly need interfaces to connect with SAP systems. The tool does not.

“Interfaces mean extra effort. They make updates more complicated, and can be error-prone,” says Gulyássy. “Besides, data has to be downloaded from the SAP system, sent to the enhancement for processing, and then imported back into the SAP system. That results in duplicate data.”

3. Combine Heijunka and Detailed Schedules

The tool unites heijunka, a method that emerged from Toyota’s lean manufacturing philosophy, and detailed schedules to, in Gulyássy’s words, get the best of both worlds. The benefit: Peaks in order levels that would otherwise overburden processes can be smoothed out.

“Peaks can be evened out before capacity leveling and from the cockpit at the detailed scheduling stage,” says Gulyássy. Though it is possible in the standard system to complete specific orders or put them into batches, it takes considerable manual effort to level out peaks to stabilize production.

4. All Aspects of Capacity Planning

Lean manufacturing planning and control can be deployed for all aspects of capacity planning. If planned orders and production orders are required in discrete manufacturing, planned orders and process orders in process industries such as the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, and only planned orders in repetitive manufacturing, the tool covers all scheduling operations that are in the standard system. Orders from the plant maintenance and project system components can also be scheduled — in other words preventive maintenance, long-term projects, and complex projects.

5. More Than 70 Scheduling Algorithms

The tool currently offers more than 70 scheduling algorithms. “Their specific logic determines the sequence in which orders are processed and reschedules processing to stay within capacity,” says Gulyássy. In the food industry, for example, rhythm wheels can be used to schedule the manufacture of products that must not contain nuts, and the leveling function can be used to smooth peaks in demand and even out significant fluctuations across periods. The system warns the user if there are too many orders and prompts them to prioritize them and determine which ones will be completed later.

6. Kanban Plus Detailed Schedules

Scheduling means predicting how many units of an item are to be produced and organizing production accordingly — a push system. By contrast, the kanban scheduling system is a pull system: The next step in the process chain is triggered only when needed. If a particular component needs to be produced, the kanban is used as an order card to prompt the manufacture of the components that need replenishing. Detailed schedules sometimes also need to contain orders processed through kanban. So lean manufacturing planning and control was designed to combine both.