ERP vs APS: which is better for manufacturers?



Planning and scheduling have always been at the heart of manufacturers’ production processes. By organizing, optimizing, and controlling manufacturing workloads, businesses can have a direct impact on their ability to meet on-time delivery, optimize inventory levels, and meet customer service commitments. But for many manufacturers, their planning and scheduling activities and processes haven’t really changed much over the years. While most have moved away from outdated offline wall charts and planners, many persist with spreadsheets, which are rigid, slow, error-prone, and static – that is, they don’t snap. often not updated automatically.

While standard software, especially spreadsheets, may seem like a quick and easy option for production planning, they are simply not powerful enough for efficient production management, leaving little opportunity for production. analysis and optimization.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Today, some manufacturers have taken their production planning to the next level by implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

ERP systems are optimized for transaction processing, not large-scale, high-volume data analysis. They evolved from accounting systems and are typically used for order processing and as a way to track what has happened. While ERP solutions are definitely a step up from manual production planning and / or spreadsheets, they are not without limitations – that planning and scheduling functionality is usually an afterthought.

Additionally, since planning and scheduling functionality is not the primary focus of ERP systems, it can be very difficult for manufacturers to configure them. This often requires the help of the supplier, which will likely incur costs and still not fully achieve what the manufacturer wants. Even then, ERP systems often lack the ability to create accurate production schedules.

As a result, some manufacturers with ERP systems still rely on spreadsheets for their production planning. So, despite investing large sums of money in ERP solutions, manufacturers may find that they have to persist with spreadsheets. Does this seem like the most intuitive solution to you?

Find out how a global pharmaceutical company is using Access APS software to increase productivity and increase capacity, as well as to streamline production: Click here

* Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Advanced planning and scheduling (APS)

So what’s the answer? How can manufacturers give up their reliance on spreadsheets for production planning once and for all?

One of the most effective ways is to implement a dedicated Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) system.

APS systems are designed from the ground up to specifically and efficiently handle daily planning, capacity planning, and what-if analysis.

With an APS solution, manufacturers can plan and schedule production based on available materials, resources, and plant capacity. They can also quickly identify and compensate for production changes in real time, thereby minimizing downtime and errors in the process.

Manufacturers can quickly and intuitively find the answers to production-related questions such as:

  • “What ripple effect will the acceptance of this rush order have?” “
  • “Is it cost effective to pay our staff extra hours to complete this order?” “
  • “When can we take this equipment out of the maintenance equation without impacting production? “

GANTT charts and visual calendars provide a view of the entire production planning process, allowing manufacturers to identify optimal start-up times, the most suitable equipment to use, as well as staff availability. .

APS software can help overcome:

  • Manufacturing delays impacting delivery times
  • Missed opportunities due to demand exceeding capacity
  • Order errors due to excess production
  • Inefficiencies caused by inactive equipment
  • Excessive overhead costs due to managing schedule changes and impact on delivery schedule
  • Difficulties planning for future capacity needs

Automotive production line - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

* Image courtesy of Photo deposits

ERP & APS: a perfect match

It is important to note that APS solutions are designed not to cause problems with existing ERP implementations. But while APS software is independent of ERP, the two work best when combined.

While an ERP system can be used to see the impact of a change in production, such as machine failure or sudden rush order fulfillment, it often takes time, multiple data sets, formulas complex and many worksheets to do it.

With an APS solution, manufacturers can analyze multiple parameters, optimize and revise their production schedules in minutes, while taking advantage of visual representations. As a result, planning can be rescheduled without the need to run a new Material Requirements Plan (MRP) in the ERP system, saving production planners time and effort.

By identifying when materials are needed and helping to avoid over-storage or under-storage, APS solutions help improve cash flow and manufacturers’ balance sheets.

Finally, with detailed insight into the production process at all times, CFOs and production managers can make informed decisions about whether to fill orders based on marginal cost pricing. If a business knows for sure that it has machine downtime due to a lack of work, the FD can make pricing decisions much more accurately. This allows the business to take on jobs at a lower cost to fill machine downtime and improve the contribution to fixed overhead.

Furthermore, the reverse is also true; if you have complete confidence in your production schedules, you know with confidence when you can give up less profitable work.

Typical APS features:
  • Drag and drop Gantt charts
  • User-defined planning algorithms
  • Several models of shifts
  • Scenario analysis
  • Workshop data capture
  • Complex processes easily created through the user interface
  • No programming required
  • Remote, cloud-based browser-based access to production schedule from any location
  • Simple for the operator to understand the daily, weekly, monthly schedule
  • Forward and backward scheduling
  • Remote browser access to the production schedule from any location

APS solutions in action

For production managers, the benefits of implementing an APS solution are easy to appreciate. But what about the broader business benefits?

After growing steadily and seeing its operations become more complex, the manufacturer of Dundee Pacson Valves needed to improve their production planning and scheduling processes.

In what was later dubbed an “On-Time Delivery (OTD) Year,” improving OTD performance became a strategic business objective. Pacson’s management team knew that having the right digital platform in place would be key to helping the company achieve this ambitious goal. In addition, any solution implemented should integrate and complement Pacson’s existing ERP system.

By implementing The Access Group’s Orchestrate Advanced Planning and Scheduling software, Pacson was able to replace his outdated planning board with an online drag-and-drop Gantt chart. Thanks to its intuitive design, the new system was quickly adopted by the Pacson team.

Access Orchestrate has enabled Pacson to transform its OTD performance from 50% unpredictable to 90% reliable.

In addition, over 95% of orders are now delivered within a week. With continuous and detailed review of all missed deadlines, Pacson’s performance continues to improve.

Speaking about the Orchestrate implementation, Pacson Valves Commercial Director John McLaren said:

“The new software allowed us to eliminate various manual processes, including our planning board, which was previously at the heart of our operation. Orchestrate has strengthened our ability to anticipate and adapt and, as a result, we have seen a marked improvement in our delivery performance. Operating in the oil and gas industry, reliability and confidence in our systems is essential – Orchestrate delivers the confidence our customers need. “

For manufacturers, the decision to implement an APS solution alongside an ERP system will depend on whether extracting information from the first, and then using it in spreadsheets, is a profitable part of the process. production planning process. If in doubt, an APS solution that complements the existing ERP system might be the answer.

Find out how Advanced Manufacturing (Sheffield) Ltd went from 67% to 70% on-time deliveries (OTIF) a few years ago, to an average today of 97% – and even 100% for some customers: Click here

Learn more about Access Orchestrate Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) software here:


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