Is Your Production Schedule Flexible, Visible, and Automated?
- Date: May 19, 2023
The only constant is change. If you’ve been running a label and flexible packaging business in the last three years, you have been living through (surviving) some crazy changes. Supply chain, COVID, raw material prices, labor shortages, and on and on. Change was always present; but these last three years have made all previous years look like they were basically static.
Change happens daily in label converter businesses. Customers have emergencies that become your priorities. Presses go down. Employees get sick or leave the company. Roll stock doesn’t show up. Your perfect plan for how the day was going to run can get whacked before 9am. A plan is good to have; but just like in football, you must have the ability to call an audible – a change of plans based on the current conditions you face.
Adapting to a Fast-Changing Environment is Difficult with Manual Processes
Historically, manual production plans were prepared primarily using brain power. Individuals in your organization have incredible amounts of intellectual capital based on years of experience. They have learned to look at the workload and almost intuitively know how it should be planned. Their tools, other than their brain power, are typically spreadsheets, their Print MIS/ERP, and likely a meeting to gain consensus. This process has been working for a long time. It results in pretty good schedules and pretty good profits. Where it doesn’t work as well as it should is when change happens. Adjustments can get complicated. A press goes down, an employee doesn’t show up, the refactoring of the schedule based on new inputs is more difficult to do and it needs to be done quickly. And one change can cascade into a multitude of other changes, especially in a complex environment. This, too, can be very difficult to manage using traditional methods.
Label Traxx built a set of basic scheduling tools into the core system because scheduling is a core function that needs to have access to the job and equipment data in Label Traxx. As our industry evolved, Label Traxx customers continued to grow, production floors continued to add more and more equipment, and the scheduling function gradually outgrew the capacity of a human brain.
Change is the culprit. Your schedule must be flexible. The schedule must be dynamic. The schedule must “react” to changes, adjusting everything downstream based on changes you make upstream. Your level of flexibility is critical to your ability to service your customers. With flexibility comes the ability to adapt to change as it happens. Batched’s dynamic schedule empowers your scheduler to be able to adjust on the fly, not because they want to, but because the market is demanding it.
Do You Have Adequate Visibility into Real-Time Data?
Visibility is the next characteristic that is important to your production schedule. There are a host of people in the carpeted area of your business (customer service), out drumming up new business (sales) and, customers who are very interested in being able to monitor what is on press, what is in finishing, and what is ready to ship. Your schedule must be visible. Your schedule must be up to date (accurate). Too many employees of label converters are donning hair nets and steel toed shoes to tour the production floor to see where a specific job is. If your schedule was accurate and visible, lots of employees would be able to stay at their desks and instantly relay job status accurately to inquiring customers.
Automation is Essential
Automation is a word that is so overused in business speak, it should be clarified when used. Batched automatically creates an optimized schedule based on the inputs of jobs from Label Traxx and your plant capacity (machines, labor, raw materials, etc.). The automation is in the analysis, evaluation, and computation of an optimized schedule based on hundreds of inputs. The automaton is then running that routine over and over when you must adjust. The automation lies in the fact that the software does the heavy lifting, producing results faster than a human could.
Take a Step Back to Review Your Scheduling Process
Many label converters don’t feel like they have a scheduling challenge because they aren’t looking in the right place. Your scheduling challenges might not be recognizable to your scheduler. They create the schedule, no problem. Your scheduling challenges are found here:
- Customer service is wandering around the production floor getting job status.
- Sales can’t prioritize a job from a critical customer.
- Production efficiency gets blown up when presses go down or employees don’t show up.
- Scheduling is nearly impossible when the scheduler is out.
- Your staff keeps telling you they need more presses; yet every time you walk through production, it’s freakishly quiet.
Optimized scheduling is a math challenge, a complex algorithm. Computers do math faster and more accurately than humans. Humans handle exceptions and use judgment better than computers. Why not let the computers do the math, let your humans engage with your customers and employees and make the critical decisions necessary to be responsive current conditions?
Learn more about Batched and how to incorporate automated scheduling into your workflow.