Business Process Re-Engineering (BPR)


Flickr © Kevin Dooley

Business process re-engineering (BPR) is another stage in the advancement of quality thinking. It contrasts with the gradual improvements over time of total quality management and puts forward a more radical, innovative approach. BPR has been defined by Michael Hammer and James Champy as: “The fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance such as cost, service and speed”.

BPR is essentially to do with fundamental change. One aspect is that of the ‘clean slate’ – do away with what existed before and start again. This has been compared to running an old car. You can work on it to keep going or adopt the BPR approach, which is to get a new one. Hammer and Champy put forward the following seven ‘principles of re-engineering’.

  • Organize around outcomes, not tasks. It gives one person the role to perform all the steps in a process. This in turn provides job enlargement and increased job satisfaction.
  • Have those who use the output of the processes perform the processes. An example might be employees buying their own equipment (within guidelines) without going through the purchasing department.
  • Integrate information processing work into the real work that produces the information. Those who collect information should have responsibility for processing it (eg. statistical information through to final report).
  • Treat geographically dispersed resources on a centralized basis. Technology is increasingly making this approach workable.
  • Link parallel activities instead of integrating their results. The use of cross-functional teams, simultaneous engineering and early supplier involvement are examples of integrating activities.
  • Place the decision point where the work is performed and build control into the process. Educate workforce and allow IT supported decision making to the more empowered workers.
  • Gather information once and at the source. Avoid the mistakes of inaccuracy of data capture from the outset.

BPR must have top-management support to succeed. Owing to its radical nature, if resistance is encountered the champion or leader must be prepared to enforce change, even to the point of ruthlessness. After change has been achieved the role of people is paramount. They are expected to be better, and able to handle more complex tasks. This will not be accomplished without focused and appropriate ongoing training.

Asprova has the power to bend the rules and make firms think inductively and give them a competitive advantage. By implementing our advanced planning and scheduling functions, firms can pull out from traditional manufacturing thinking and embrace more modern practices such as the JIT or agile production; break down inter-departmental barriers and create harmony between sales and operation functions to improve quality and increase throughput. In essence, Asprova assists users to make extreme proactive decisions to improve their business performance.


Asprova Scheduling: Mixing-Packing-Inspection Process

This article explains the operations and functions used from master setting to rescheduling with Asprova APS. In this sample, we will explain the mixing-packing-inspection processes in Asprova.

Graphical display

To be able to produce ProductA, it has to go through a series of processes:

  1. The materials for product A is set as ProductA-Material.
  2. ProductA-Material passes the mixing process first. There is a resource called Mixer 1 for the materials mixing process.
  3. Next step is the packing process. There are 2 packing resources – Packer 1 and Packer 2 for the packing process.
  4. Then, items produced in the packing process pass the inspection process. There is an inspector called Inspection Center 1 for the inspection process.
  5. Finally, ProductA will be produced.

This is the production process for Product A. All necessary equipment are called resources. All of these can be set up in Asprova – including set up and production time, resource or process output (e.g. mixing process outputs 1 unit etc), time constraint or waiting time and the order information. Order information includes product, order quantity, due dates and priority. Priority is set into two types – priorities 50-90 are called “Just in Time” orders wherein orders are scheduled in a backward direction from the due date and priorities 90-100 are called “Emergency” orders wherein orders are scheduled to start and finish as soon as possible.

With all these information set up in Asprova, we can run, adjust parameters and re-run schedule to meet the desired dates and quantity. For example, possible late deliveries can be adjusted to meet schedule on-time through opening weekends for operation. Asprova also has the capability to synchronize processes such that rush orders are scheduled sequentially with the just-in-time orders minimizing waiting time between processes. By doing this, it allows factories to schedule manufacturing with minimal lead time. As a result, size of production and work-in-progress inventories are reduced.

To learn more about this specific Asprova sample demonstration, you may visit Asprova’s e-Learning video HERE .


Toyota Production System

Flickr ©mrhayata

Flickr ©mrhayata

In the automobile manufacturing industry, the Toyota Production System (TPS) is considered to be a major breakthrough after the mass production system of Henry Ford. Withholding the philosophy of “the complete elimination of all waste”, the TPS embodies all aspects of production in pursuit of the most efficient methods. TPS has immerged after many years of devotion to continuous improvement with an aim to shortening product lead-times and implant uniformity of the final product. The objective of TPS is to “make quality vehicles ordered by customers in the quickest and the most efficient way, in order to deliver vehicles as quickly as possible”.

TPS is founded on two major concepts. The first one is “Jidoka”, which is automation with a human touch to highlight or visualize problem. Jidoka is an automated process that inspects each item after producing it. If no quality problem/defect is detected, the machine safely stops when the normal processing is completed. However, should quality/equipment problem arise, the machine detects the problem by itself and stops, preventing flawed products from being produced. Hence, only those products that satisfy quality standards will be passed on to the following processes on the production line. During initial phase of Toyota back in the 1930’s, when Sakichi Toyoda developed the automatic loom, it was designed to stop if the thread broke.

So it was there in the beginning of TPS and is considered one of the pillars of the TPS house. The second one is “Just-in-time”, making only “what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed!” Just in time provides a disciplined approach to improving overall productivity and eliminating waste. It provides for the cost-effective production and delivery of only the necessary quantity of parts at the right quality, at the right time and place, while using the minimum amount of facilities, equipment, materials and human resources. JIT is dependent on the balance between the supplier’s and the user’s flexibility. It is accomplished through the application of elements that require total employee involvement and teamwork. A key philosophy of JIT is simplification.

Asprova is complementary to the TPS philosophy, both combine ideally to improve quality, increase productivity and reduce overall manufacturing costs of a company’s production line. It generates schedule which fully integrates sales orders to manufacturing orders, and manufacturing orders to purchasing orders to enable true lead-time reduction and trim down inventory levels. Hence, Asprova supports to implement JIT which has its roots in the Toyota Production System.



Source: Prof C. A Voss , Just-in-Time Manufacture, IFS (Publications), Dec 31, 1987
Photo Credit: Flickr ©mrhayata

Why is Production Scheduling Necessary?

Flickr © David Goehring

Flickr © David Goehring

Production scheduling is an important tool in helping the company provide accurate, real-time schedules, decision support and available-to-promise date and quantities. It is a manufacturing planning tool that is used to represent what the company plans to produce expressed in specific configurations, quantities and dates. It takes into account the forecast, the production plan, and other important considerations such as backlog, availability of material, availability of capacity, and management policies and goals. Some of the scheduling techniques available are:

  • Finite and Infinite Capacity Scheduling – Finite Capacity scheduling is a detailed scheduling strategy that considers resource load capacity versus Infinite Capacity that doesn’t. For example, if there is an order of 1,000 pieces on August 30, through finite capacity planning, the system will schedule this based on available capacity and will adjust production start dates as necessary, whereas infinite capacity planning will schedule all the orders at the same time assuming that sufficient capacity is available.
  • Backward and Forward Scheduling  – This is a technique used for calculating production start and due dates. Backward schedule is computed starting with the due date and working backwards to determine the required start date based on the set lead time. Forward schedule is computed starting on the first possible date the product is available and schedules the remaining activities from that point. For example, an order is released with a due date of Sep 30. Assuming a total of 20 days lead time from setup, to production, to delivery, through backward scheduling, the order will start processing on Sep 10. On the other hand, through forward scheduling, the system looks for the first possible date the product can start processing, for example, it is available for processing on Aug 25, the product will be ready as early as Sep 15.
  • Just-In-Time Scheduling  – “A philosophy of manufacturing based on planned elimination of all waste and continuous improvement of productivity.” It is designed to have the product available just-in-time by having the required inventory only as needed and shortening lead times through reduction of setup or queue time.

Now, imagine all of these techniques being done manually or through Excel, coupled with sudden changes in the production line – increase in order quantity, change in due date, machine breakdown etc. It is going to be very difficult for the employee to keep up. Asprova Production Scheduling is designed to assist the scheduler in arriving at a realistic production plan through a series of adjustment and simulation process in the system.

Asprova APS can help evaluate and revise plan based on available inventory and capacity constraints. It uses Heuristic rules to perform optimization and simulation that will allow a company to quickly respond to sudden changes. It will also help in maintaining desired level of customer service, making best use of resources, keeping inventories at desired level resulting to production efficiency and reduced costs.

For a detailed example on how Asprova APS works, you may visit our official e-Learning website HERE.



Source: APICS Dictionary, 12th Edition




Model Factory by Toby Oxborrow

The concept of ‘Kaizen’ has its roots in the early quality management Gurus, particularly Deming and Juran. Deming’s initial message was about the need to measure product deviations and to continually reduce them. His message has been well received in the Japanese manufacturing industry where a thorough and meticulous approach to production has long been appreciated. Kaizen is the Japanese term for continuous improvement. “It is both a rigorous, scientific method of using statistical quality control and an adaptive framework of organizational values and beliefs that keep management and workers alike focused on zero defects”.

The Kaizen approach is there to increase a manufacturing firm’s competitiveness on an ongoing basis through a series of small, gradual improvements. If part of the process can be improved every week then the accumulated gains can be substantial. The Kaizen approach supports group working, quality circles and cross-functional teamwork in a way that encourages discussion throughout the organization. Continuous improvement is also an integral part of the JIT philosophy and, to be effective, must be adopted by each member of the organization, not only those that are directly involved in the production process.

Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down, shared and implemented. However the improvements come mainly from those who do the work and the system must encourage workers to contribute by setting time aside, encouraging group working (‘Kaizen groups’) and suggestions. It involves setting goals and standards to be met and, when these have been achieved, increase it in such a way that they appear reasonable and achievable. The Japanese approach has not always travelled successfully to the manufacturing firms in the US and Europe where the concept does not mix with the Western culture.


Photo by Benjamin Grove

The Kaizen process is based on several rules but the underlying concepts are the same: Be open minded, maintain positive attitude, reject excuses and seek solutions. Kaizen is an established Japanese business practice that underpins much of the thinking behind JIT and Japanese business norms in general. It requires establishing a plan to change whatever needs to be improved. Then carry out changes on a small scale and observe and measure the results. Finally evaluate both the results and the process and then determine what has been learned.

Asprova displays the results of scheduling in the form of Gantt chart that allows manufacturing firms to draw up plans in advance and make small adjustments. This repeated action assists in improving overall performance of the entire workflow by increasing throughput and preventing late deliveries. Our Time Constraint Max feature also enhances the quality of products by controlling the maximum wait time between processes.

To learn more, please visit our e-Learning website.

Operations Management in the Supply Chain, The Official Course Book of The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, Profex Publishing Limited, 2010, Page 171

Achieving Overall Optimization Through Short, Medium and Long Term Planning

While planning is indeed a basic need to each and every company, it is not an easy feat. Let’s take a look at a ship manufacturer who decided to try Asprova and have experienced four reasons to choose our Finite Capacity Scheduler.

Impressive foresight

In this featured company, in order to keep their equipments running, they relied on professional human planners to make schedules. However, they could only do plans that are 1-2 months ahead. Anything further than that, becomes a workload rather than a detailed and carefully considered plan. This changed when they chose to switch to Asprova. The scheduler helped them create plans that cover up to two years and managed 5000 orders, 6-7 target processes, and 30,000 operations.

An error free schedule

Because of a standardized system that comes along with Asprova, there is little to no room for errors in planning. This is a very important factor that helps maintain high efficiency. Asprova prevents process omissions and shows warnings if time constraints will be breached.

Overall optimization and accuracy

Planning for four months to a year ahead is no joke. It requires accuracy and an in-depth understanding that should be used to adjust delivery dates and carefully predict the upcoming workload. The company, instead of using just excel, switched to Asprova because of it can easily produce accuracy in optimization.

More money

Of course, one of the main goals, if not THE main goal, of the company would be to increase their profits. Even when these are not on the list of reasons of Asprova introduction in the company, lead time reduction, improving cash flow, and inventory reduction are perceived as something that will come to them in the long run with the help of Asprova.


Five Good Reasons Why You Need Backward Scheduling

Scheduling in Reverse

Both Material Requirements Planning (MRP/MRP-I) and Manufacturing Resources Planning (MRP-II), for example, are forms of backward scheduling systems. You might have encountered those terms in our previous posts, and those are examples of backward scheduling.

Asprova can easily design a backward plan. A Japanese manufacturer of marine fresh water generators for ships experienced Asprova’s assistance on this topic. (See case study 17) It is often hard to understand the importance of coming up with a plan based on deadlines (backward) and practice. But, enough understanding on Asprova can easily help us with this.

Here are five advantages of Backward Scheduling:

  1. Process change-over reductionquick changeovers are an integral part of the JIT philosophy. The benefits of quick changeovers can be realised by simply changing the way in which we go about changeovers.
  2. Inventory reduction, leveling production leveling, also known as production smoothing or – by its Japanese original term – heijunka is a technique for reducing the muda (waste).
  3. Reduced scheduling effort -with backward scheduling, you don’t really need to put a lot of effort in the process.
  4. Increased production efficiency -unlike forward scheduling which schedules into the future, backward scheduling could potentially schedule into the past because the resources where not available to complete the job.
  5. Accurate delivery date quotes – backwards scheduling then may turn around and actually forward schedule the job to tell the customer the earliest delivery time.