Article February 8th, 2019
by Kari Juntunen, Key Accounts Vice President
What does it take to be in the top 0.1% of industry
With success in the manufacturing business so tightly tied to effective production management, the right digital planning tools can separate the winners from the losers.
You’ve got dozens of orders to fill. Supplies are coming in from every direction. Which of your production lines do you assign to handle which job on which day? The answers come via a complex juggling act known as production planning. Amazingly, 99.9% of manufacturers — including some billion-euro enterprises — are still carrying out this mission-critical planning in Excel, or even on pen and paper. If your company is serious about surpassing the competition, it’s time to drop the spreadsheets and embrace digital innovation.
The targeted technical solution for this job is an advanced planning and scheduling (APS) system. Moving to APS can be a true game changer, dramatically streamlining your entire order-to-delivery process. In addition to cutting throughput time and warehousing needs, APS can respond to unforeseen changes in a way no semi-manual setup ever could.
Black box vs. rule-based
After exploring the various APS options on the market, Nortal’s architects discovered one, Asprova, that clearly matches the needs of today’s manufacturers more closely than the rest. Used by about 60% of the large industrial producers in Japan, where the system was developed, Asprova is finally starting to catch on in the rest of the world.
What makes Asprova fundamentally different from traditional APS systems is its approach to solving the planning puzzle. Whereas the solutions widely used in the West today are black-box systems built on mathematical equations, Asprova is rule-based. The user creates the rules that determine the results and can add more rules or change them at any time.
99.9% of manufacturers are still doing mission-critical planning in Excel or even on pen and paper.
This setup allows the kind of flexibility and level of detail that can, for instance, account for late delivery or an operator who calls in sick. It’s also very good at running simulations. How much will buying that €50 million machine improve my output? A mathematical-based system would struggle to provide an answer. Asprova can deliver the result within a few seconds.
The rule-based methodology additionally allows Asprova to be scaled up, meeting the demands of a company that has dozens of factories around the globe. It can not only be used for planning what happens within a factory itself but also for coordinating deliveries along the supply chain.
Nortal’s first Asprova client in Finland was Kontio, the world’s largest manufacturer of log houses. We have received the data from the first year after their switch to APS and can report that the improvement has been nothing less than outstanding. Kontio’s stock levels have dropped by 50%, and the average throughput time for each order decreased by 50%. Time used for production planning went down a whopping 70%.
More recently, we’ve embarked on an even farther-reaching Asprova project — a group-wide rollout for Boliden, a Swedish-based metals company that is one of Europe’s largest producers of zinc and copper. Asprova will be integrated with Boliden’s new ERP solution, being installed in parallel. Though it’s too early to discuss the results of the Boliden case, we fully expect it to become another example of how applying the right technology can lead to radical improvements in outcome.
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