I’m always interested in approaches that don’t involve systems designed for the specific purpose of automating the scheduling process and enabling better decision making. In particular, use of spreadsheets is pervasive, and often difficult to displace with systems like Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS). Why is that?
This is a small sample of potential answers:
- Using spreadsheets is “inexpensive” or “easy”
- Spreadsheets can be customized to do whatever you need
- Companies settle into a comfort zone with their spreadsheets
Even when a company decides that improving their production scheduling is a high priority, there are just as many reasons why companies resist APS systems:
- “APS requires too much data”
- “APS is too sophisticated for us to use effectively”
- “APS is not sophisticated enough for us,” also known as “it just won’t work”
A clear discussion about the benefits of one scheduling approach vs. another involves at least these basic questions.
- How effectively does the system model reality, so that decisions are made based on good information?
- How “visible” is that information? How much work does it take to get good information on a daily basis? How easy is it to share that information with others in your company (and your vendors and your customers)?
- How well does the system support making changes, and illustrating the impact of those changes analytically?
- What is the true financial impact on profits, operating expenses, inventory, and other measures based on the scheduling options in front of you?
With questions like these, companies can at least start to challenge the assumptions about using spreadsheets, and arrive at the right decision. Essentially, the “features and functions” required to create and analyze realistic plans and schedules need to be there. Then, the question becomes one of value: would an investment in a different system reduce expenses, reduce inventory, and/or increase profits? In this way, what can appear to be a complex decision can be structured and clarified. It may be that sticking with those spreadsheets is the way to go, but the only way to know for sure is to be honest with ourselves about the pros and cons of the choices available.
*This article was written by APS Expert Pete Nelson