Finite and Infinite Scheduling Practice in ERP Operations

Dustin Alexander

By: Dusty Alexander

For manufacturing planning and scheduling systems that consider capacity leveling, production data is plugged into equations that result in two types of schedules: Those based upon the known real-time data of existing work loads, emerging jobs, material, machines, and labor (finite scheduling); and, those schedules for orders and operations that ignore all existing and/or future resource loads (infinite scheduling). In either case, for the most dynamic creation of finite or infinite scheduling a powerful enterprise resource planning software program (ERP) is needed to factor a wide range of production data and variables.

In an ERP operation where accurate scheduling is a vital part of the strategy for on-time delivery, a robust scheduling software program is needed that is flexible enough to provide both finite and infinite scheduling quickly and accurately. In short, master schedulers must be able to answer the typical questions that face them everyday, such as: �Can we accomplish this forecast?�, �In which work center should we run this production?�, and �When should we promise the delivery for a customer�s order?�. To achieve accurate answers to these questions, schedulers must have access to real-time data from all aspects of plant operations.

Therefore, the smooth flow of data throughout a manufacturing operation is needed for scheduling. A fully implemented ERP software offers such a data integration platform that can make a significant difference in the accurate scheduling necessary for the all-important consistent on-time delivery. For example, perhaps the greatest function of ERP scheduling is its ability to tell shop floor operators the next job in line to be performed. Often utilizing an easy to use Graphic User Interface (GUI) viewer screen, operators can see not only which jobs or specific job functions are scheduled next, but they can also view online assembly and quality instructions, and even schematics and photographs of what the finished piece should look like.

In addition, ERP software can be used for supply chain management as a global scheduling and rescheduling tool for multiple locations throughout the supply chain and plant work centers. In other words, for finite scheduling, ERP software provides real-time assessment of present and short-term plant capacity as defined by on-hand manufacturing resources (material, machines, labor, etc.). Such finite scheduling methods are necessary when the manufacturer must deal with the potential of running hundreds of jobs and thousands of events each day, where tracking individual job progress can often be quite difficult. With the GUI, each job status is easily and instantly available to all shop personnel.

However, when a manufacturer wishes to look out into the future to determine the production possibilities that could occur in best (or worst) case scenarios, master schedulers can load capacity infinitely. In other words, the planning system assumes that, at any given time, the plant will have the resources necessary to do any work presented to the operation. That is, in infinite scheduling and planning the assumption is that plant resources (labor, machinery, material, etc.) have infinite capacity. With the GUI, master schedulers can load into the ERP system any number of data level types set to infinite capacity and ascertain potential physical plant and personnel needs in various hypothetical economic scenarios, over any desired period of time.

In conclusion, whether operational needs are for scheduling jobs in either an infinite or finite capacity, a fully implemented ERP software solution is necessary to keep up with and assess the consistent flow of production data flowing through a plant. The more robust the ERP software, the more accurate the real-time picture of present and/or future plant capacity.

About the author:

Dusty Alexander is the President of Global Shop Soultions. Global Shop Solutions is the largest privately held ERP software company in the United States.

Copyright 2007 - Global Shop Solutions. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Reprint Rights: You may reprint this article as long as you leave all of the links active, do not edit the article in any way, and give the author name credit.

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