Why you need to make sure APS always adds up

APS, or Advanced Planning and Scheduling for the uninitiated, is more than a piece of software. To take full advantage of APS you have to embed the methodology into your business and you have to trust the results.

That can be hard to do when you are puzzled by the outcome of a complex schedule, over multiple machines, shifts, product ranges, toolsets and so on. The fact is, APS is just a big calculator, and it always makes rational decisions based on the parameters you have set. The problem comes when those parameters are not correct. It comes in two halves: data and settings.

It is imperative that data is clean, that almost goes without saying. But, what is clean data? We all naturally build lead times and slack times into our daily activities. When we are driving to the airport we might get an estimated journey time from our satnav, then we add half an hour for traffic, 15 minutes to find a car park space, 15 minutes to catch the bus back to the terminal, and another 15 minutes for good luck. So for a two hour journey we might allow 3 hours 15 minutes “just to be safe.” Do that in APS and suddenly, like one planner told me recently “the plan has more holes than a sieve.”

Then there are the settings. The planner might know that although “technically speaking” an operator can only run one machine at a time, sometimes, on a night shift, if product X and Y are running together, they can manage two. But you can’t set rules that rely on human experience into a system.

The only way is to set up the model and test and test and test, until you understand the schedule backwards, forwards and upside down. Refine the data and the settings to get APS to as close to a human decision as you can.

There’s no wonder then that it takes time to get APS right, to get the results you are expecting and to trust the results you aren’t. It takes time, but it’s worth it. Don’t expect miracles, APS can’t replace planners. It’s designed to do the hard-work, but you will always need a planner’s flair and expertise. Get the two working together in harmony and have you can create a flawless planning solution.

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