This blog post is an excerpt from our white paper, APS Goes Native for Industry 4:. Why Advanced Planning and Scheduling must be an MES Capability. To read the white paper in its entirety, go here.

For Industry 4.0 to have its full impact, Advanced Production Planning and Scheduling (APS) must be a MES native capability. Meeting the demands of a high-mix, constantly changing automated and digitized Industry 4.0 environment, MES is the single application that can fully embody APS. With it, you gain speed, accuracy and the execution necessary to optimize plant performance.

First Things First. What is APS?

According to Gartner, “Advanced planning and scheduling (APS) is a sub-component of supply chain planning, contextually describing manufacturing planning and scheduling”.

APS has been traditionally a stand-alone application, due to its specificity and concentration on resource and materials management. Its focus is on balancing productivity, customer satisfaction and profitability. MES’ focus is on the transformation of raw materials to finished goods. The two applications have a natural affinity for one another since they have a similar goal of plant productivity and materials optimization through the scheduling and execution of production. In using a separate, disconnected APS you lose the benefits of MES synchronization and single view of the truth. That’s why it’s essential for effective APS to not only be integrated, but a native module within your MES. 

Native Scheduling in MES

What exactly does this mean? At its basic, APS native to MES means it’s built ground-up on the same foundation. Scheduling, like any other MES module, shares the same master data and user interface (GUI) with no extra work required from the user’s IT or production teams.

If we look at the data flow in this diagram, we show what Scheduling needs from MES and ideally what MES needs from Scheduling. The automation and integration of these streams ensure faster flows for a more responsive operation. And this is the foundational benefit of adding native scheduling capability to MES.

What about Non-native Scheduling?

Actually, native scheduling in MES is quite rare. Most scheduling tools come in one of these forms:

  1. Best of breed: an independent offering
  2. Included in the ERP: the weaknesses are handling complex operations, and a further integration since most ERPs acquired, versus developed, their APS.
  3. Third party bolt-on: like number one, some MES companies simply partner with an APS to gain functionality. The integrations will be shallow since they don’t share the same master data and were designed to work independently.
  4. Same company, separate offerings: like the bolt-on, this scenario has a single source for both MES and APS, but in truth they are standalone applications with little to no integration.

Functionally Comparing Native to Traditional APS with MES

Scheduling is typically a third party application with a local database. Integration with MES means getting all master data—calendars, maintenance, equipment information and set up matrices synchronized with the materials and Work In Process. 

MES must transform the data into the appropriate model or schema to pass the information to the scheduling engine. This is typically file-based (XML or text). Once the schedule runs, for MES to execute it, a similar conversion of results via a file transfer is required. This is shown in the figure below:

To streamline this process, once APS is native to MES, it shares master data and the plant and process model with no additional effort, as shown in the figure above on the right.

Operational Benefits

There are 7 operational benefits that will come from a Native APS in MES:

  1. Fast reaction times. Quicker reaction to changes, including margin needs, demand and on-time delivery pressure. Using a buffer, not every small change will require a re-schedule; only when buffers are depleted.
  2. The Schedule and the MES are always up to date. The schedule is based on the current status information found in the MES, including order status, and the status and calendar for resources such as materials, equipment, tools and people. The MES, in its expanded role executes to supply chain realities such as demand, planning horizon, order volatility and order freeze periods.
  3. The schedule is ‘executable.’ Operations can now follow the schedule confidently as it’s driven by production processes and resources, as well as maintenance schedules and personnel certifications, not just by the materials.
  4. The schedule is enforced. The MES validates, executes and ensures that production follows the schedule, versus an open-ended process. Visibility into the schedule and hosting its results in the MES ease operator mistrust or desire to override the schedule.
  5. The schedule reliably improves outcomes. As the schedule is based on optimizing total plant performance, operations performance naturally can be more fully optimized as well.
  6. Associates gain confidence. Operators and technicians will appreciate the added visibility and realistic schedules generated. The rich user interface (GUI) in the MES is a single source to use for all of their production activities.
  7. Know what you really do. MES process models and metadata can be updated as needed, based on actual scheduling results. As Operations executes successful process improvement programs, the schedules can reflect it. Additionally, if a flow or cycle time is not realistic, the schedule can be shifted to a more rational flow.

IT Benefits

We’ve looked at Operations benefits, but what does IT gain? There are 5 benefits of note:

  1. Eliminates solution integration. All of the associated challenges, risks and delays of integration projects are eliminated with a native APS/MES solution. The real-time benefits of shared master data and in-memory updates are seamless and automatic, eliminating tedious integration practices through files sharing between APS and EMS.
  2. Single software. Only one model and data set are maintained with calendars, resources and other parameters, and all of the plant, process equipment and product models are reflected in both scheduling and MES. 
  3. Cleaner data. Native scheduling in the MES avoids duplication of master data and all of the opportunities for differing data when the systems are separate.
  4. Streamlined User Interfaces. Having a native scheduling module inside the MES eliminates the need for separate GUIs, which simplifies tasks for operators and lessens cyber-security threats.
  5. Lower risk upgrades. Having a single MES/APS system means upgrades and maintenance are lower risk and effort; changes are synchronized without additional adjustments, testing and deployment.

Business Benefits

We’ve discussed Operations and IT, but the real payoff is the contribution to the manufacturer’s overall business. 

  1. Lower cost of ownership. One versus two licenses; one software system to set up, train people on, maintain and upgrade.
  2. Happier stakeholders. Supply chain planning, logistics, customer service, finance, sales in addition to IT and Operations will feel the benefits. Customers will be able to get what information they need, when they need it, and suppliers gain smoother execution with more timely information. As the company gains agility with less IT and operations efforts, it may likely appear in shareholder results.
  3. Better customer responsiveness and profit preservation. Historically, the options were any two of better, faster and cheaper. Having APS native to MES means customer orders can pass through operations more reliably, with fewer costly delays and errors due to disconnects.
  4. Agility for Industry 4.0. Whatever the company’s business model is—selling product-as-a-service, going into new segments, creating smaller batch or one-off production, this vision dictates ultimate agility with no complications from complex integration middleware.
  5. Future-ready. Disruptions on any front are less likely to wreak havoc when operations are running in a synchronized way. This includes disruptions from new competition, new product types, and new models as well as supply and demand shifts or, as we are seeing today, natural disasters.

Go Native for Industry 4.0 Success

Companies serious about achieving the full benefits of agility, accuracy and production optimization from Industry 4.0 are moving to native scheduling in MES. Pulling the key element of smart supply chain execution in as a deep synchronization of activities in the plant enables the vision and promises of Industry 4.0 to speed toward reality, with more confidence and better business outcomes.


APS Goes Native for Industry 4.0

Why Advanced Planning and Scheduling Must Be an MES Capability

by Critical Manufacturing