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Takahashi's Scheduler Case Book: Chapter 13

The Curious Case of the Scheduler that Made Itself Redundant

I had the opportunity to talk with the staff of Company M who had purchased a production scheduler. The company's parts factory manufactured a wide variety of metal clamps, fittings and fasteners. When I asked how things were going since they had installed the production scheduler they replied that it was doing a great job for them, but that they were no longer using at the moment. A little taken back I said that it couldn't of been of much use to them if they were no longer using it but they said not at all, it had been of great help to them. Sensing a twitch in my case book, I then questioned them further.

They had entered the bill of materials (BOM) and orders into the production scheduler and based on the production schedule generated they had been able to fine tune the plant's operating conditions including the elimination of bottlenecks, balancing of production lines and the relocation of equipment. They had figured that since they had be able to improve their manufacturing so much that they had already got their money's worth out of the purchase of a production scheduler. The fluctuations in demand for their products were fairly even so all of decisions about daily production could be made on-site instead.

This is a very good example of how a production scheduler can be used as simulation tool to model the manufacturing process of a factory.

Case Closed. . .

Learn more about Production Scheduling at Production Scheduling System Asprova

Written by Kuniyoshi Takahashi: Production Scheduling Case Book

Takahashi's Scheduler Case Book: Chapter 14

The Intriguing Case of Who Reforms the Reformers

There was once a rural plant belonging to Company N, a major manufacturer that had installed six production schedulers simultaneously. I received a communication telling me that everything with the production schedulers was running well but that something had unusual had occurred during installation.

The head office's production reform team had come to the plant to provide guidance about KAIZEN and is very often the case the plant itself would have to pay for this guidance. For a long time the reform team examined, very carefully, the production scheduler that was in operation in the plant. However, rather than giving advice on how to use the production scheduler, the reform team said quite the opposite. They admitted that it was they that had actually learned a lot about how a production scheduler works.

The improvement recommendations that this reform team would make were all manually oriented, in other words concerning only the actions that humans would carry out. Improvements such as this, the improvement of human-related action is of course important. However, it is far more effective to use the simultaneous combination of retraining personnel and adopting the use of large-volume high-speed processing afforded by the computerization of the production scheduling.

Case Closed. . .

Learn more about Production Scheduling at Production Scheduling System Asprova

Written by Kuniyoshi Takahashi: Production Scheduling Case Book

Takahashi's Scheduler Case Book: Chapter 2

The Baffling Case of the Mistaken Bottleneck

A had received a call from Company B, a factory that builds specialist vehicles. Unlike general motorcars that have high production and relatively stable demand, the demand for specialist vehicles changes frequently and they require a lot of customization for options and special parts. Because of this, it's difficult to make use of a KANBAN system so instead they decided to implement a production scheduler instead.

This time, the production scheduler had already been installed and it was my first time to visit them since they had got it up and running. Current operations were running smoothly so I asked them about what improvements they had been able to see with the production scheduling of their specialist vehicles since they had started using it. And once again I was surprised to see that an unexpected benefit had been gained.

After using the production scheduler for only a little while they had discovered that the process, which everyone had suspected of being the bottleneck in the production, was in fact not the bottleneck at all. Instead, they had been able to identify the bottleneck as being a completely different process. Before the implementation of the production scheduler the company had already planned to purchase new manufacturing equipment for the mistaken bottleneck, at the cost of 4% of the annual turnover, to replace the current machinery. By being able to correctly visualise the true state of their factory they had now been able to hugely improve the effectiveness of their factory investment and as a result of this they were able to get a return on the money they had spent on the implementation of the production scheduler in just one year.

I'm always happy to hear about cases like this where a company has been able to justify the implementation of a production scheduler with such obvious cost improvements in their manufacturing. However, it also acts as an important reminder that we should be aware that the bottlenecks that every factory experiences may not always be where everyone thinks they are.

Case Closed. . .

Learn more about Production Scheduling at Production Scheduling System Asprova

Written by Kuniyoshi Takahashi: Production Scheduling Case Book

Takahashi's Scheduler Case Book: Chapter 1

The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Lead-Time

I was called in to visit Company A, a factory manufacturing shock absorbers that were being built for installation on bikes, cars and planes. A shock absorber is a piece of equipment used to buffer an object from the force of impact by converting that movement into heat (in the case of pneumatic or hydraulic shock absorbers). The energy from from the shock can be dissipated by using either a liquid, gas or even electromagnetism.

After examining the factory shop floor I discovered that the process flow was extremely long with between 40 to 50 processes including metal-working, piston rod hardening, product assembly and final painting. As a result of this they had an average lead time of 2 months! Anyway, I gathered all the factory's data for the processes, configured the scheduling parameters in Asprova and tried to create a production schedule for the shock absorbers. After some fine tuning I was finally able to succesfully produce a production schedule and view it on the Gantt chart.

To even the most experienced and skilled production planners trying to produce any kind of schedule for a 40 to 50 process manufacturing line at all is extremely difficult, let alone a schedule that is optimized to reduce later orders and improve lead times. However, with a production scheduler this is not only very simple to calculate but with a graphical interface to display the jobs as a Gantt chart it is also much easier for the planner to visualise the overall process flow as well.

After analyzing the results of the schedule we realised that we had been able to reduce the average manufacturing lead-time to just 2 weeks, a quarter of what it had been before. At first the planning supervisor couldn't believe the results so we double-checked to make sure that there hadn't been any mistakes but no, we had actually been able to cut the lead-time from 60 days to 14 days. Even I was surprised. However, the planning supervisor was supiciously silent. He now had the unenvious job of having to explain to the factory manager just exactly how he had been scheduling upto now to produce lead-times of 2 months.

Of course, although the production scheduler was able to drastically reduce the lead-time to 25% of what it originally was, that doesn't mean that the factory is going to be able to suddenly be able to change it's way of production so that it can carry out the manufacturing processes with the same level of efficiency. However, there is another advantage of a using a production scheduler, you can fine tune the parameters to slowly decrease the lead-time little by little. This allows the shop floor to then gradually carry out kaizen methods to improve their manufacturing.

The planning supervisor breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe it wasn't going to be so hard to explain about the improved lead-time to the factory manager after all.

Case Closed. . .

Learn more about Production Scheduling at Production Scheduling System Asprova

Written by Kuniyoshi Takahashi: Production Scheduling Case Book

Takahashi's Scheduler Case Book: Introduction

President Kuniyoshi Takahashi was born in 1958 in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture.

During his college days, when he enjoyed rock climbing and winter climbing, he travelled solo by bicycle for 2800 km throughout Japan (from the southern island of Kyushu to the northern island of Hokkaido), 5400 km across the United States (from Seattle to New York), and 4500 km from England to Egypt (via Holland, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece).

For over 20 years, he has devoted himself entirely to developing the ultimate production scheduling system. He says, "I personally devoted more than 4000 hours of my time in designing Production Scheduling System Asprova, Japan's No.1 production scheduler. Including program development, Asprova took over 15 man-years to create. Now it is my earnest pursuit to help more Asprova users increase their profits and join the winners of the manufacturing industry."

Through his many years of implementing production schedulers at numerous companies around the world he has amassed a vast experience of know-how regarding how production schedulers can be be used to enhance a company's kaizen efforts and promote a high level of lean manufacturing.

Many of his more technical articles will be featured in our main Lean Manufacturing Japan area of the site but a more personal view of his many episodes will now appear in Consultant's Journal.

Takahashi in Egypt

TakahashiEgypt.jpg Takahashi ponders whether the Egyptians would have been able to reduce the lead-time on their pyraminds had they been able to employ a production scheduler.
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