Lean manufacturing concepts have been instrumental in increasing productivity and ensuring efficient delivery. High volume productions benefited significantly by embracing lean practices and segmenting production into balanced lines.
But the times have changed
High volume does not necessarily mean low variety. A single car assembly line now has 10 colors, 7 upholsteries, 4 models, 3 engine types and so forth. Customers want to know the status of their customized product. Never has there been such a testing time for manufacturing industry when it has to meet several objectives at a time. First objective is to cater to increasing flexibility needs of the customer. And today's customer demands visibility into production line!
Second objective is to run the production lines smoothly at the same time handling large variety of subcomponents. It is a perfect catch 22 situation. Increase the inventory and higher goes the cost. Decrease the inventory and face the line stoppages, chase the supplier, steal material across lines. Life has never been tougher!
Third objective is to run the production as per the current planning system in place, stick to the plan and deliver to the customer. ERP/SCM systems by and large provide manufacturing order based plans and schedules. Production lines in a Lean manufacturing company are completely part based. It is the planning manager and production manager who are trying hard to implement a mismatch software solution on a shop floor which speaks a totally different language. Disasters are eminent.
This move from ‘Mass Production' to ‘Mass Customization' has lead to many changes in the way manufacturing industry works. Unfortunately the software solutions catering to this industry have not changed.
Many available planning and scheduling software work in only planning mode and eventually thrust execution on the shop floor personnel. These order based APS systems are just not able to provide the visibility and quick re-sequencing which the lean production lines so desperately need. Order based systems fail to construct detailed part level scenarios on a minute to minute basis which are important for ensuring an uninterrupted flow line.
What this industry needs is a smart system which is reliable and supports the people at Production Planning. Lean manufacturing has done tremendous impact on industry in terms of functional progress. Now there is a need for a Planning and scheduling software designed for this industry which is in unison with the industry practice.