Having previously worked as a production scheduler, I’ve seen how a seemingly minor event can have a major impact and throw off what I thought was the perfect plan to keep a project on track. Someone called in sick, a machine needed maintenance, a defective component showed up on the line — these and other incidents routinely interrupted workflows and left me scrambling to make up for lost time.
In a previous article, I shared an overview of how modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can improve production schedule accuracy and workflows. In it, I talked about how every decision, error or unexpected hiccup could affect costs related to expedited shipping, overtime, potential lost business and more.
Here, I want to dig deeper to not only talk about how a modern ERP like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central can address scheduling challenges but also show you. Why? The issue with many legacy ERP systems is their lack of intuitive interfaces. The “touch and feel” and how easy it is to move around the system is a major factor in whether a user embraces the technology or finds workarounds that can render the system ineffective.
Older systems are typically difficult to navigate and don’t have the capabilities that a modern manufacturing setting demands. Just as other technologies have improved, so have ERPs. So, when exploring your ERP options, having a demo and being able to view sample dashboards is critical.
Seeing is believing, so let’s dive into several dashboard views to get a feel for how it works.
First Things First — ERP Building Blocks
The most important factor of ERP success is building out your data to create your master records. Your data — item numbers, customer information, vendors, capacity, bill of materials (BOM), routing, etc. — is the main building block that determines the steps and time it will take to manufacture your products. These building blocks will feed the Business Central function and result in an accurate timeline for both production and purchasing.
Your ERP system should also be able to account for variances that occur in production, including different machines, cycle times, customizations for specific customers and calendars. When data accuracy aligns with a good user experience and a consistent process, the potential for heightened success skyrockets, and you’ll get the most out of your ERP.
For demonstration purposes, the following example dashboard shows a basic BOM that contains all the components and quantities required to produce a front wheel.
While all ERPs arguably have this basic functionality, it’s important to note how clean and straightforward the interface is, meaning that training will be easier and the likelihood of user adoption will be significantly higher.
Once the production order is in the system, it drives the demand for components. The above screenshot shows the number of components needed to produce a single wheel; however, the number of individual parts and workflow will automatically scale based on the quantity of wheels that is ordered.
Once an order is scheduled, next steps are executed and everyone downstream is alerted. Material handlers are automatically provided direction on which inventory parts need to go to designated work centers in the factory. Even complex configurations and logistics can be simplified when everything’s spelled out clearly with the help of an ERP.
Another foundational building block of an ERP is identifying the steps required to make the item, or routing. In the following example, there are five steps that use various Work Centers or Machine Centers. The times required for each step can be defined here as well.
Each routing step has a calendar associated with it, and the timing is directly linked and calculated according to the available run times for those resources. It also takes into consideration any holidays, scheduled maintenance or other out-of-service scenarios that are entered into the system. For example, the calendar can automatically be blocked off for a machine that is down. It all leads to a realistic, real-time view of your entire operation to determine accurate production timelines.
View and Manage Resource Capacity
A production scheduler is charged with reviewing master planning output and creates production orders based on sales orders. Visibility into available capacity is critically important to ensure those orders get delivered on time.
Accessing a work center and viewing the load of production orders in the system provides a clear picture of capacity and the ability to “drill down” into the load value to ensure you are balancing the work assigned to those resources. You can also move a task from one work center to another from the load view.
Viewing the Work Center Card for work center 100 below, we can easily navigate to the capacity/load view. Within this view, we can see the capacity by Month (this can be changed to view by Day, Week, Quarter, Year or other defined period). We can also see capacity for this period and the Allocated Quantity or Load in that period. The last column calculates Availability after orders. This view provides quick insights into underbooked or overbooked resources.
From a scheduling standpoint, if I drill into the 180 minutes of Allocated Quantity for April, we can see if we’re overbooked against the work center. If there’s too much time booked based on capacity or, on the other hand, too little, I can decide how to make adjustments or fill time as needed. This allows for maximum uptime and capacity utilization.
When Orders Are Completed
Once production orders are completed, you can easily view statistical activity. This not only provides a summary of what happened but also may be used to adjust standards (e.g., rates on the routing, costs on a resource, etc.) to continue to improve ERP data accuracy.
In the Production Order Statistics view below, we can see a summary of the various cost components — Material Cost, Capacity Cost, etc. — in addition to the expected costs for this production order and the actual costs reported through the production order processing activities.
This “audit” report provides good insight into the financial results of the production order and can provide a starting point for investigating causes of any significant variances.
Business Central provides the tools needed to efficiently run your operations. You can effectively manage the master records used to build your finished products, view resource availability and the work booked against those resources, and generate a production order summary document after or during various activities to gauge progress, assess costs and more.
While sample screenshots are helpful, there’s no substitute for a hands-on demonstration and conversation that takes your unique operations into consideration. Contact the ERP specialists at Wipfli today to discuss how Business Central by Microsoft can benefit your organization.