By Monzer Tohme, Regional Vice President, Middle East & Africa, Epicor Software
The Middle East manufacturing industry has become virtually unrecognisable over the past 50 years, and while products and processes have remained a priority, change has been continuous. The boundaries of what was once a relatively black and white industry have blurred thanks to technology advancements, and, as a result, manufacturers have been forced to embark on transformation projects, and adopt new integrated technology solutions in order to better service the modern customer.
One such solution is planning and scheduling software. The conduit to managing the shop floor efficiently, this software joins up all parts of a business’s manufacturing arm, allowing companies to utilise resources in a way that optimises performance and profitability.
The software is vital to manufacturers, allowing them to forecast customer demand, and schedule resources–such as machines, people, and raw materials–based on real-time data. It also allows manufacturers to realise cost savings through the reduction of wasted time and the amount of unsold stock sitting on shelves in expensive warehouses.
Demanding customers vs. technology
Today‘s customers are not only becoming increasingly demanding but are also now harder to attract, influence and retain. This is posing new challenges for manufacturers as they make moves towards a connected future via automation, and robotic assembly.
Whether it’s an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to aid the flow of business, and increase communication across a company, or the implementation of a manufacturing execution system (MES) to support the efforts of workers on the ground, and increase productivity, manufacturers are using modern technology solutions daily. The internet-enabled world we now live in makes it essential for manufacturers to implement and use industry-specific software as part of the day-to-day running of a factory if they want to plan for the future and keep customers happy.
Historically, competing customer orders and contention of resources and supply have been an issue for manufacturers, often leading to missed delivery deadlines, and even overproduction. Planning and scheduling software controls these situations by providing manufacturers with up-to-the-minute information, and suggestions when it comes to the raw materials they need, and how resources can be used most efficiently. This means manufacturers can maximise their performance while increasing profitability.
Planning and scheduling software can effectively predict future bottlenecks and issues with orders, meaning manufacturers can take action and rectify potential issues before they actually cause problems—preventing customer orders from being delayed or filled incorrectly.
The business landscape is currently within a cycle of technology-oriented transformation and manufacturers face intense pressure to remain agile, grow, and increase efficiency. It is clear that the only way forward is to invest in, and implement, modern technology solutions.
In fact, the demand for new and more efficient technologies is rapidly increasing, and the line between the digital and physical worlds is blurring in most elements of our daily lives. There is a growing trend for many consumers to purchase greater levels of products online instead of in store.
Manufacturers are experiencing a similar transition with their customers keen to receive the same services they get from internet giants such as Amazon and eBay–the ability to buy online, and have visibility of the delivery timescale upon purchase. These are relatively new demands, and to offer them alongside trends such as mass customisation, manufacturers have to start working smartly. It doesn’t matter whether you are running a make-to-order, make-to-stock, or a just-in-time business, planning and scheduling software needs to be pushed up the list of ‘must-haves’. Once a commitment to a customer is made–whether creating a custom-made product or agreeing to a specific delivery date–it is vital to meet it. This is where planning and scheduling software adds value to the business and can be the difference between repeat and lost business.
Historical scheduling and productivity
When done correctly, scheduling can provide real business benefits including minimised production time and cost and maximised factory efficiency. However, it’s not just about scheduling the manufacturing process, it’s about ensuring the right resources are allocated for the job, and working in the most efficient way.
Scheduling has traditionally taken a large amount of human skill and organisations must realise that the implementation of software does not reduce this need. Instead, it provides these workers with the tools to perform their roles more efficiently, enabling them to disseminate the most relevant data to the workers on the shop floor.
Technology is the future
For manufacturers wanting to take advantage of what Industry 4.0 will bring, planning and scheduling is the foundation to build on. With the industry in constant motion, the only way forward is to innovate and evolve. Investing and implementing advanced and scalable technology solutions–such as ERP and planning and scheduling software–will allow manufacturers to see tangible business benefits and positively affect their bottom line.