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The 7 Ways Production Control Systems Need to Change

The 7 Ways Production Control Systems Need to Change

Changing production control models that have been in use for decades is easier said than done, which is why in order to reinvent the wheel, you need to start with what you already know.

After 60 years of using computer-based production controls, we know that a truly advanced production control system must:

  • Be intuitive and easy to use
  • Anticipate change and adjust to it in real time
  • Prioritize resources to achieve the best outcome for all work orders (WOs)
  • Self-expedite
  • Not require a high level of data input or maintenance
  • Automatically align dependent WO dates with top-level demand
  • Provide users with the information they need to execute work now and plan for the future

Let’s take a look at each of these to get a better understanding of how production control needs to change.

Be Intuitive & Easy to Use

We’ve all come to know and appreciate simplicity in our daily lives. When our microwave is done heating something, we hear a bell ring and know to get our food. When a sensor in our car says the door is open, we close it. When we see the icon for an application on our phone, we intuitively understand what to do with it.

Next generation production control systems must operate in much the same fashion. In order to achieve this level of simplicity, it’s important that systems use basic algorithms to generate actionable insights and share those results via vibrant electronic displays on the shop floor. These displays make it easy for shop floor employees to understand what’s going on, and what they need to do should things change.

Anticipate Change & Adjust to It in Real Time

Running and re-running bad schedules that are quickly rendered obsolete is a waste of time and energy and can create confusion. An advanced production control system should be able to anticipate unexpected events, regardless whether they’re caused by people, machines, suppliers or customers, and automatically initiate real-time adjustments in the execution of shop floor work.

Prioritize Resources to Achieve the Best Outcome for All Work Orders

There are two ways to approach this:

1. Prioritizing Capacity for All WOs
Finite capacity scheduling systems typically start their scheduling algorithm by taking the WO with the closest due date and loading all of its operations against the resource capacity it requires. As a result, this WO will be the most likely to be on time because it is receiving all of the available capacity in the shop.

Once the first WO is loaded, the system will then look at the next WO due and schedule that with the remaining capacity; this cycle will then repeat until all WOs are scheduled. By definition, the last WO receives the least available capacity.

One of the consequences to using this type of processing logic is that the system will schedule a shorter job with an earlier due date before a longer job with a later due date. The problem with that approach is that longer jobs typically need to be scheduled to start before shorter jobs in order to be delivered on time.

A next generation production control system should dynamically balance available shop floor capacity across both short and long jobs by prioritizing WOs based on both the amount of time they require and their risk of being late.

2. Ensuring That WOs Are Released at the Right Time
Traditional finite capacity scheduling systems create WO release dates based on operational run time. These systems assume that all WO operations will be completed within the allotted timeframe, however, this is rarely the case, and jobs are often released to the shop floor early. This causes jobs to pile up on the shop floor which, in turn, can lead to workers “cherry picking” jobs that are easy to execute and leave others to fall to the wayside.

An advanced production control system should account for execution issues when determining a release date in order to ensure that it is the true date to release the WO to the shop floor.


Once a production control system goes down, the fallback position is to use expeditors to find WOs and “push” them along. Although this is a tried-and-true method to keep things moving, it is extremely time-consuming and, ultimately, expensive.

A next generation production control system should use data to clearly define priorities to shop floor personnel to eliminate expediting. In addition, it should adjust these priorities in real-time once it detects any variation.

Not Require a High Level of Data Input or Maintenance

Production control systems are notorious for requiring copious quantities of data to function. Due to the fast pace of manufacturing and the high degree of customization involved, there are many variables that aren’t clearly defined until the WO release. To that end, an advanced production system must be able to work with data that isn’t entirely accurate and that is constantly changing.

Automatically Align Dependent WO Dates with Top-level Demand

Shop floors consist of many moving parts and pieces — people, machines, and materials — operating at full capacity to produce multiple products. Certain “multi-level” products include a WO for the end product and additional WOs for each subassembly needed to create the end product. When the demand date for the end product (typically the delivery date on the Sales Order) changes, all of the subassembly WO dates must change, too.

A next generation production control system should dynamically change subordinate WO dates and quantities any time the end product WO changes.

Provide Users with the Information to Execute Work Now & Plan for the Future

Many of the requirements shown above focus on the execution of work currently on the shop floor. But, in order to be truly advanced, a production control system must be able to predict the outcome of all work on the shop floor and any WOs that have yet to be released.

To that end, a next generation production control system should use a resource prioritization methodology to simultaneously execute work and predict when all work will be complete. It should use a combination of descriptive, predictive, and even prescriptive analytics to suggest actions that end users can take to improve outcomes and efficiency on the shop floor.

Those looking for a next generation production control system need look no further. For over 30 years, Synergy Resources has been helping manufacturers reach their full potential by incorporating the latest best practices and industry solutions to address today’s production control challenges. In part three of our series, we’ll talk about the evolution of production control systems and a revolutionary new approach to production control, called Protected Flow Manufacturing.

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