Industry 4.0 accelerator

Industry 4.0 and Production Scheduling

It is hardly fitting for the goal of Industry 4.0 that some 99 percent of European manufacturers, including world-renowned corporations, plan their production with ERP – in effect – with Excel, paper and pen.

What’s missing?

Today, many companies have connected their MES and WMS to the ERP system. More and more companies put IoT applications into operation or set up M2M communication. However, in all digitalization and networking, a highly-detailed production planning system constitutes a factory’s brain, whereby all company organs are aligned towards fulfilling their activities just-in-time. In the case of a missing or inadequate production planning method, most-expensive types of waste emerge. Still, the topic of production planning is hardly mentioned in journals that discuss Industry 4.0.


A future project within the framework of Industry 4.0 is the so-called Smart Factory, in which manufacturing resources and logistics systems communicate among themselves without human intervention and are mostly self-organized. The human body is a perfect example for an autonomous system.

In this manner the ERP system can be compared to the human cerebrum, which is responsible for cognitive association, memory, data processing, thinking, judgment and decision-making functions.

The MES takes on the role of the somatic nervous system, which is important for the relationship to the outside world by sensory organs, muscles, skin. Reception functions transfer commands for body movement to the brain as a result of received information.

IoT acts as the peripheral nervous system, sending information via the body’s communication network to the central nervous system, while commands from the central nervous system are related to individual body parts.

APS: Advanced Planning and Scheduling System

In contrast to the human body, the APS fulfills one of many roles of the diencephalon (middle-brain), which is considered the “gateway to consciousness”. It controls autonomous sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves and communicates with the cerebral cortex and the spinal cord, among other things. A healthy person is hereby able to carry out coordinated, harmonic movements.

The APS constitutes this important part of the “brain” (the middle-brain), by which all orders are manufactured in harmonious sequence, in other words, the shortest-possible lead time through synchronous processes is achieved. For this purpose, all main and sub resources we well as material availability are planned and perfectly controlled.


Smart Factory?

In many technical papers one reads that future production resources such as production resources or robots will exchange information among themselves autonomously and in real-time to independently coordinate processes and appointments. This would mean – staying true to the comparison with the human body – that limbs would directly communicate with each other and coordinate themselves independently, without the diencephalon as the “nerve center”. Of course, this is hardly going to work. And too often the role of production planning is avoided in pertinent discussions. This may be due to a lack of awareness and ignorance of top-management, as many of them do not understand their own reality in enough depth. They believe that ERP and MES provide an adequate planning method while their planners have to use Excel, which, in essence, is “fire-fighting activities”.

Indeed, ERP + MES cannot ensure attainment of process synchronization and best possible sequence planning.

OEE-Focused Management

If machines communicate amongst themselves and are set to automatically fill capacity gaps, one speaks about an Refocused thinking pattern by management. In practice, it is heard time and time again that CEOs and CFOs like to purport Refocused orders to the shop floor. Their argumentation is: “Machines with high hourly rates need to be running at all times.” This is not correct for a simple reason: Whether a machine runs or not does not impact its existing fix costs. However, the variable cost of today’s manufacturing company can be affected, and they, for the most part, consist of material costs — often making up more than 70 % of manufacturing costs. Thus, the following principle must be kept:

• Produce only what is needed

• when it is needed

• in the exact required quantity.

In other words: Only bottleneck resources should always be running, while other resources should be running only when they are required to do so. This is the secret to the Toyota Production System, namely, tact time production, which is the foundation for process synchronization and just-in-time production.

The Optimal APS for Industry 4.0

An Advanced Planning and Scheduling software is to be viewed as the missing link between ERP and MES. Before manufacturing companies conceptualize the ideal of Industry 4.0, it is imperative for top-management to analyze and question their current production planning method and system. Non-synchronous processes, long production lead times and high inventories are, to a great extent, a result of inadequate production planning.

A good production planning tool issues manufacturing orders to individual resources with specifications for optimal production order sequence. A continuously coordinated sequence planning method is, in turn, the prerequisite for process synchronization. Precision and correct timing of the sequence plan are critical to the just-in-time level. After attaining that, one start dreaming of Industry 4.0.a

Asprova and Industry 4.0

Asprova is one of the world’s leading providers of APS systems. Their planning software was developed during the mid-90’s in cooperation with Japan’s top lean-manufacturers and since has been continuously developed to stay up-to-date with ever-increasing requirements, and to represent state-of-the-art technology in its domain. Many companies that employ Asprova today produce on a level that complies with Industry 4.0.

Asprova offers you:

• Fully automatic planning system  

• 100 % mapping of product specifications, process rules and -restrictions  

• Realistic planning results  

• Near real time order status: plan vs. production status  

• High level of process synchronization through holistic sequence scheduling

• Simulation of short-/middle-/long-term plans with varying scenarios  

• Super-high calculation speed  

• Versatile visualization features of planning results  

• Enables front-loading management through preemptive recognition of bottlenecks/problems, so that timely preventive measures can be simulated and on the basis of which decision can be made.