May 04, 2023

The Telltale Signs You're Ready for Production Planning Software

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Key Highlights

  • Production planning software helps move the operation towards achieving its business KPIs and goals, without adding bottlenecks or problems for internal teams.
  • One of the signs that a company needs production planning software is if generating plans and schedules takes hours or even days. The software should be able to generate plans and schedules in a matter of minutes, not hours or days.
  • If a company is relying on additional shifts, overtime, or hiring more staff to manage planning and scheduling needs, it may be a sign that there are inefficiencies that need to be addressed.
  • The ideal production planning software should provide efficient solutions that human intervention may not see.
  • Another crucial feature to consider is the software's ability to identify and address the root cause of issues such as overtime or gaps in operations.
  • The key to successfully implementing production planning software is clear communication and a shared understanding of goals and expectations


What are the key benefits of production planning software for businesses?

In today's world, every manufacturer is using some form of planning and scheduling software, whether it is pen and paper, Excel, an ERP, or some other system. The crucial factor is how they are utilizing it and what results they are achieving. The software should help and move the operation towards achieving its business KPIs and goals, without adding bottlenecks or problems for internal teams.

The right production planning and scheduling software can offer several key benefits to manufacturers and help them achieve their business KPIs, such as:

  • Maximizing inventory utilization
  • Reducing labor costs by eliminating the need for overtime or additional shifts 
  • Minimizing inventory levels and maximizing the utilization of inventory, ensuring that everything in the warehouse has a purpose, with no waste or overhead costs. 
  • Keeps the operation running efficiently and smoothly
  • Allows for scalability, ensuring that the software can grow with the business

How can a company determine if they are ready to implement production planning software?

Determining whether a company is ready to implement production planning software is a crucial step in improving efficiency and productivity in manufacturing operations. Inefficiencies can cause delays and waste valuable time, which is why it's important to identify any issues that may be hindering progress and have the honest conversations to recognize and address them.

Production text bolded in red surrounded by production words

One of the signs that a company needs production planning software is if generating plans and schedules takes hours or even days. The software should be able to generate plans and schedules in a matter of minutes, not hours or days. Additionally, if a company is relying on additional shifts, overtime, or hiring more staff to manage planning and scheduling needs, it may be a sign that there are inefficiencies that need to be addressed.

Implementing the right software can increase flexibility and productivity while reducing costs associated with additional labor. It's important to address these issues head-on and not rely on band-aid solutions that may only provide temporary relief. By thinking outside of the normal routine and implementing long-term solutions, companies can improve their operations and achieve their business goals.

What are the most important factors to consider when evaluating different production planning software providers?

When evaluating production planning software options, it's crucial to consider various features to ensure that you choose the right solution that meets your manufacturing operation's specific needs. The market for production planning software is vast and noisy, with different providers offering various advantages. It's essential to look beyond the obvious features and consider the entire manufacturing operation's scope and how the software can address the root cause of the problems rather than just a single problem.

Two people at a laptop with one pointing at a screen that shows graphs.

A Complete Solution 

One of the critical features to consider when evaluating production planning software is its ability to provide a complete solution that addresses all your operation's needs. The right software solution should take into account all your facilities, machines, capacity, tact times, and every aspect of your manufacturing operation. 

Identify & Address the Root Cause

Another crucial feature to consider is the software's ability to identify and address the root cause of issues such as overtime or gaps in operations. For example, you want a solution that looks beyond just reducing overtime and seeks to understand why overtime is necessary in the first place. This may involve looking at factors such as customer delivery dates, volume, and unexpected growth that can impact inventory and planning.

Multiple Lines & Machines

The right production planning software should also balance the need for various operations across multiple lines and machines rather than exhaust a single machine or line, leading to overtime or other issues. This requires an in-depth understanding of the entire manufacturing operation, including all lines, machines, and facilities.

Beyond Human Intervention

Finally, the ideal production planning software should provide efficient solutions that human intervention may not see. You want to partner with advanced planning and scheduling experts whose approach involves looking at the entire operation, including efficiency shortcuts and points that can streamline operations and improve efficiency. The goal should be to address the full problem and work with you to develop a complete solution that goes beyond surface level issues.

How does production planning software help mitigate problems with labor constraints such as holidays, time off, shift changes?

The right production planning software solution should be designed to map out a manufacturer's entire operational space in order to provide a more viable solution to planning and scheduling needs. The right solution takes into account various inputs from the manufacturer, such as inventory, labor constraints, seniority or skillset, holidays, vacation time, days off, changes in shifts, and more.

For example, the right solution can help in situations where an employee has to leave early, causing idle time for the entire line. With an outdated current system, such situations are not taken into account, resulting in lost productivity and increased costs. However, with the right production planning software, scenarios are factored in, and the system can make the necessary adjustments to ensure optimal scheduling.

One of the unique strengths of Optessa's production planning software is its ability to capture even the tribal knowledge that exists within an organization and use it as an input for planning and scheduling. This means that manufacturers can be assured that even the most unique or specific constraints or requirements are taken into account, resulting in a more efficient and effective planning and scheduling process.

Time off require form

Can you provide an example of a company that successfully implemented production planning software and saw significant improvements in their operations?

Pharmaceutical Case Study

Pharmaceutical manufacturing

Implementing production planning software has been a game changer for many companies. One example that comes to mind is a customer in the process industry Optessa worked with who was previously planning manually, using Excel spreadsheets and even a whiteboard. While this method was working to a certain extent, it can only take the human mind so far and generate plans based on the person's level of understanding.

This particular manufacturer had five workers on five lines, but they were not overlapping their work. This led to inefficiencies and delays, with workers waiting for two hours or more for their turn on the line. We were able to analyze their machine and line capacities, as well as layer in the labor side of it, and with the help of our production planning software, we were able to reduce their lead time from four to six weeks down to just a few days.

With the software, we were able to work collaboratively and the team knew exactly when each line was going through its processes, allowing them to work in tandem and keep things moving efficiently. This not only improved productivity and reduced idle time, but it also helped the customer become more profitable by reducing cancellations and improving on-time delivery.

The savings from this kind of improvement are immense, as delayed orders can result in cancellations and lost revenue for the company. Additionally, idle time is a hidden cost that can be detrimental to any manufacturer. Optessa’s production planning software not only helped reduce idle time, but also allowed workers to work more efficiently and reduced overall lead time.

Automotive Paint Case Study

Automotive manufacturing

Another example of a successful implementation of production planning software with Optessa is with an automotive paint shop that struggled to increase the batch size of their painting process.

The automotive paint shop wanted to paint more cars of the same color, but didn't have the visibility to see if another car of the same color was coming down the line. This meant they were painting only two cars at a time and incurring unnecessary expenses for changeovers.

With the implementation of production planning software, they were able to increase their batch size by three times. Now they could paint six cars of the same color at a time, reducing changeovers to once or twice a shift instead of every two hours. This led to significant cost savings as changeovers were estimated to cost around $3,000 each time.

Additionally, the increased efficiency gained by increasing the batch size resulted in more cars being painted and everything being done on time. The customer no longer had to worry about delivery dates because the process was more efficient. In the end, the proper implementation of production planning software not only improved their operations but also saved them time and money.

What reasons might be causing manufacturers to avoid discussing the cost of idle time?

In manufacturing and certain industries, idle time can be extremely costly, often thousands of dollars per minute. However, some people are hesitant to address or even acknowledge this issue. This could be because they find the number too daunting to confront, or they simply have other pressing concerns that take priority.

The reality is that when machines are not running, it not only leads to a loss of revenue from customers but also incurs a fixed cost for the operation. Therefore, it is essential to streamline operations and increase efficiency to minimize idle time. By doing so, the cost associated with idle time becomes less significant, and the focus can shift towards optimizing production.

What advice would you give to a company considering implementing production planning software for the first time?

If you're a company considering implementing production planning software for the first time, there are a few key things to keep in mind. 

Your Goals

It's important to clearly articulate your needs and goals for the software. This means having a clear understanding of what pain points you're experiencing and what you hope the software will be able to do for you.

When working with a production planning software provider, be sure to have all of your baseline data ready and easily accessible. This includes things like customer orders, inventory levels, and demand forecasts. Knowing where your data lives and how to access it will help ensure a smoother implementation process.

Time & Resources 

Another important factor to keep in mind is that implementing production planning software is a major project that requires dedicated time and resources. It's important to have a team dedicated to the project on your end, and to work collaboratively with your software provider to ensure a successful implementation.

Reach Out to Your Network 

If you are feeling pain or experiencing problems with your current process, it's time to lean into it and do your research. Don't just continue living with the pain and kicking the can down the road.

Start by asking others in your network, especially those in your industry or space, about their experiences with production planning software. Start your own research to learn about the different options available and what might work best for your specific needs.

Once you have a better understanding of what you need and what options are available, it's important to align with the right partner to help you implement the production planning software. Look for a company that has experience working with businesses similar to yours and can provide a solution that grows and scales with your operation.

If you're feeling like you need to hire another person to increase efficiency, take a step back and evaluate what you're really missing in your operation. Is it a lack of technology or better processes? Bringing on another person might not necessarily solve the root issue.

Collaboration Equals Success

The key to successfully implementing production planning software is clear communication and a shared understanding of goals and expectations. By collaborating closely with your production planning software provider and being prepared with baseline data and a dedicated team, you can ensure that your implementation goes smoothly and delivers the results you need to improve your operations.

What Sets Optessa Apart from Others?

When it comes to production planning software, Optessa stands out as a specialized platform that is dedicated to its purpose. Unlike other software that promises to do it all, Optessa focuses solely on advanced planning and scheduling. This is what makes us unique. Optessa works collaboratively with any provider in the space to ensure that the data flows in and out of the system seamlessly.

With over 20 years of experience, Optessa has over 20 years of experience and is committed to being open, transparent, and collaborative with our customers. The company's promise is to work together to figure out how to meet your unique needs. At Optessa we see our customers as partners and approach every implementation as part of a total digital transformation journey.  If you're looking for assistance or have questions about production planning software, please feel free to  reach out at 1-800-918-3597. You can also email marketing@optessa.com or visit us at https://www.optessa.com/ 

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