Day in the Life of a Production Scheduler

5 critical differences between project management and APS software

By: Mike Liddell, CEO of Lean Scheduling International and Author of “The Little Blue Book On Scheduling”

Project Management (PM) software such as Microsoft® Project can be an invaluable tool for managing mid to long-term projects in industries such as construction. But this does not necessarily work across of industries although many managers have attempted (unsuccessfully) to adapt PM software to the world of production scheduling.

On the surface, the differences between the needs of a project manager and the needs of a production scheduler may not appear to be obvious. This is especially true for project–based manufacturers but a few minutes spent reviewing this article should remove even a shred of doubt.

This article looks at the real-life day-to-day issues facing production schedulers and explains why these issues cannot be resolved without an APS (Advanced Planning & Scheduling) system.

1. Managing resource conflicts:

The success and profitability of a manufacturing company is directly tied to its ability to efficiently manage and utilize its key resources, such as machines. Because most of these resources have a finite capacity there will ALWAYS be numerous jobs competing for the same resource at the same time.

This is where Scheduling becomes the act of balancing the supply of a company´s resources with its customer demand and the ability to produce a valid action plan. Introducing APS! APS systems are specifically designed to help automate this process with little or no limited manual interference.

Implementing a plan using PM software requires an excessive amount of trial and error without being able to fully understand the downstream consequences.

2. Rules and Sequencing:

In the real world of manufacturing, each facility faces a unique list of constraints that impact the way it manufactures. In addition to machines, this list includes materials, secondary constraints (e.g. tooling & operators) and an unlimited number of product attributes. Each of these variables can be used by APS to improve the effectiveness of the schedule depending on the company´s objectives such as reducing setup times and/or improving on-time deliveries.

None of this is possible with PM software!

3. Cause and Effect:

The biggest problem facing production schedulers is time. Creating a schedule is not very hard if you have enough time. But the time and effort needed to make manual adjustments that reflect all the latest changes can be daunting. This is because every change has the potential to impact every order in your plant. Attempting to do this manually becomes almost impossible in the limited time available.

APS systems can automatically update and re-synchronize thousands of orders in a few seconds or minutes while considering all your constraints.

None of this is possible with PM software!

4. Speed:

APS solutions deliver speed! Specifically, they allow you to react faster and smarter to changes. Not only can you reduce the time it takes to update your schedule from hours to seconds, but your APS solution creates a much more accurate, efficient and synchronized schedule.

The time you save allows you to identify and fix potential problems before they happen. This also allows you to use the experience of your scheduler to manually fine tune your schedule where it makes sense.

None of this is possible with PM software!

5. Ease of use:

Because so much of the intelligence and logic required to schedule a facility can be built into your APS system, it makes it far easier to train schedulers while ensuring a more consistent schedule. In addition, the graphical displays that are automatically created by your APS system make it much simpler to understand.

None of this is possible with PM software unless you have additional training and experience!


Based on the five significant differences outlined above its hard to imagine any manufacturer that would consider using PM software to do operational scheduling that APS can achieve much faster and with better outcomes.

You can find more about this topic and others in Mike Liddell´s book “The Little Blue Book on Scheduling”. Or contact Mike at [email protected].

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