Digital Transformation of Factories is Booming. Why is SEAsia still using Excel for production planning?

■ A lot of inquiries

We get a lot of inquiries from overseas about Asprova, our production scheduling software.
They want to use it for DX. The project leader is usually IT person.
“Can it be integrated with ERP? How much does it cost? “are the most common questions.

I ask, “How many orders do you manufacture in a month ? How long lead times?”
I rarely get an immediate response.
“What is the problem with your current schedule?” There is no answer.

■ They don’t know factory shops

These mean that even if I explain Asprova’s functions to them,
they will not understand them.
They may know ERP well, but they don’t know detail about
the factory floor. They will never make the factory more efficient.
Naturally, the plan will remain as it is now (Excel).


■ In English, production management is less informative.

So, I researched websites that would be helpful for them to study factories.
What I surprised was that there is a lot of such information in Japanese, but a little in English, and even if there is, it is outdated.

So, I’ll introduce the long- schedule, the medium, and the short briefly.

Long-term schedule

Long term schedule is monthly plan for a year based on the annual business plan, which is based on demand forecasts and sales information.

– Coordinating sales, production, and inventory
It is a rough plan for coordinating sales, production, and inventory.
It is necessary for capital investment, hiring of personnel, and procurement of materials with long lead times for ordering.

– Business strategy is necessary as a factory
It is also the axis of the plan that determines what kind of production will be done as a business strategy.

–Reduce inventory as much as possible with JIT.
–Level production with safety stock.
–With leading demand forecasting and systems, immediate
delivery of products in excess of tens of thousands.
–Change the plan multiple times a day according to changes in
supply & demand and actual performance.

– Super factories utilizing IT are coming
After the days of MRP, Kanban and JIT, amazing manufacturers utilizing IT are emerging .There is still very little of this kind of discussion available in Southeast Asia.

I am troubled by the number of IT people who want to DX and optimize without any basic strategy for manufacturing.

Medium term Schedule

Generally, when we say, ‘production plan/schedule’, often mean this.

It is also called the Master Production Schedule, and it is used to determine the product items, their timing of production, and quantity.

And it determines when to obtain parts and materials, and plans arrangements for equipment, human resources, tools, and outsource.

Often planning up to three months ahead, we compare the schedule with the actual results and update the plan.

-Planned by ERP or production management system
To plan these, even on a monthly basis, if the number of items, raw materials, and parts exceeds several hundreds, quantity calculation becomes difficult. It is planned by a function called MRP in ERP and production control system. In the old days, the computer was so weak that it took dozens of hours to calculate, so it couldn’t be done on a daily basis.

-Difference by industry
Most of the assembly production like automobiles and electrical products are planned on daily and updated on monthly basis/unite, while most of the parts are planned on daily and updated on a weekly basis, since they are often produced in lots, bulk production.

Many ERP and production management systems create a medium schedule
with fixed lead times, in other words unlimited capacity, infinitely.

Some production management software allows purchasing to be adjusted on a daily basis to match the daily production. This is more popular for inventory reduction than systems/softwares that only allow monthly purchasing plans.

The short term schedule

The short-term schedule is manufacturing orders issued to the factory sites based on the medium schedule. They are called work instruction, work order, or operation chart. But I don’t think there are very accurate words in English for them.

Work orders can take many forms, including their creation and operation.

-Process and connecting line production
At chemical factories that continue to make the same products and factories that continuously produce products by connecting each process with conveyors, the planning staff formulates a comprehensive plan based on the delivery date and quantity.

— a lot of manual work
If the process is divided into site units such as pressing, forging, and assembly,

There is a way to leave it to the on-site leader based on the medium schedule.
The order number, priority, item name, quantity, etc. are communicated to the leader at each site, and the leader gives instructions to the worker based on the progress of the previous and next processes.
Often the case in factories where there is a lot of manual work by craftsmen.
The operator might manage priority.
The leader mainly manages the priority of each order.

— a lot of machines
In a factory with many machines
Not just order number (lot number), priority, item name, quantity
They would specify the machines, their start time, end time.

In order to make effective use of the manufacturing machine that automatically processes in minutes and seconds after the operator setting, it is necessary to make such a detailed plan.
They usually consider the order of processing to reduce the setup time.

— Leading factories
Leading factories re-plan every day in consideration of yesterday’s results, rush orders or troubles
There are some factories that re-plan several times a day.

Calculations are difficult every day, and multiple people schedule or introduce a scheduler.
With scheduler, they plan all processes at once.
Asprova is used a lot in Europe, China, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan.
It is becoming widespread in the United States, Mexico, and Latin America.

Once they use paper for work instructions, now they are displayed on the monitors.
In Japan, it is prohibited to use paper at the product factory for some precision processing and food.

It can be pasted on the wall of the site or in an easily visible place as a work instruction chart.
There is also a factory that uses a large monitor for it.

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