Visualize the production plan and focus on productivity

The global competition today sets severe demands on production efficiency in all businesses.

Processes need to flexible, adaptable and competitive. If these demands cannot be met, there are others who will succeed.

The ideal versus reality

In an ideal world we can create a productive process that is LEAN, and thereby flexible and adaptable. This is where we produce Just-in-Time and processes are optimised via visual planning. If we drive the LEAN concept to its extremity, we need neither IT nor ERP systems, because in the ideal LEAN world demand starts a specific production where activities are initiated via a visual trigger system.

In actual fact, however, though there are many of us who want to move in this direction, we have still not got there and therefore planning and IT systems are necessary. So how can we, with ERP and other IT, guarantee that we achieve maximum efficiency and utilisation of our productive process?

One critical prerequisite for an efficient utilisation of the productive process (both equipment and personnel) is that the planning is based on a solid platform of decision-making documentation. In this context the actual situation and status of production are important parameters for the prioritisation of orders and work assignments. These aspects are as a rule managed by the ERP system, and this is where the final production plans are developed.

But how do we capture the status of the current situation, and how do we reveal the plans for the production personnel?

From plan to here-and-now knowledge and overview

The actual situation and status of production can result in the need to revise the plans. Stoppages in the machinery or reductions in production rates can, for example, result in the need for important changes. And the quicker we become aware of these, the better. Many companies do not realise that production has not gone as planned until this is actually reported, or when a deadline has not been met. This is because debriefing normally takes place when the job has been finished.

The publication of production plans is often done via printouts, or notices on boards or whiteboards. Such lists and notices should absolutely not be underestimated, and the human aspect of personal submission and participation in the plans is also an important part.

But printouts and lists often have a very short period of validity and therefore need to be updated at relatively short intervals – and how do you make sure that all personnel are always aware of current plans and priorities? How do we guarantee that the productive process focuses on what is most important here and now?

ProMark Workforce Management

We have solved this challenge in our Workforce Management solution ProMark. In a nutshell this is about: The right resources, at the right time, for the right job.

ProMark works on the basis of the idea that creates simple, smart and rapid ways for companies to adjust the use of their resources and to create efficiency and productivity. This idea has been developed and refined for more than 30 years, and today we are one of the most innovative software companies within Workforce Management, says Torkel Olrik, CEO of ProMark.

We focus on developing a system that is easy to configure and in daily use, and which also gives companies the opportunity to define work schedules and ensure follow-up and execution of these plans. This takes place through close integration of real-time registration of employee data, combined with production data in real-time generated for example from SAP.

Production overview on large screen, close at hand

With ProMark and the customised interface to SAP it is possible to visualize production plans and status on a big screen.

Personnel in the production areas subsequently get real time information on the status of current jobs and also know what else is planned.

The solution is based on actual registering that both includes the personnel who are ready with a specific part of production, and also personnel who are currently active in production. The production overview is thereby updated in real time, and one very important factor is flagging possible delays – precisely because the screen shows the active production resources.

For each production area it is possible to configure the screen with individual trigger values so that potential or actual delays are presented.

The solution is of course web-based, or in other words access is possible from any unit with access to a web browser. The production manager can get an overview via, for example, an iPad – the only thing you need is an internet connection.

When an urgent order has been received and is planned and released for production in SAP, this order will without delay be highlighted in the relevant work centre and in due course for the personnel who are to focus on precisely this order.

Large companies, for example Aker Solutions, have by using the production screen on many of their units increased their focus on what is important just now – and have therefore been able to reduce throughput time and production costs.

Collection of production data

Real-time updating of production status is naturally possible by registering every time a specific production situation occurs. This should be easy and easily accessible, and therefore it is often necessary to be able to register via different media and units.

We have solved this by facilitating the use of several different registering media and units in ProMark, including Windows terminals.

With ProMark on a computer or tablet, personnel can via a configurable dialogue carry out relevant job registration, which on the one hand are sent back to SAP and on the other used to update production status in real time. The dialogue with personnel is customised in relation to the type of order (PP, CS, PS, PM), work centre and other parameters. This guarantees that personnel receive the relevant data and are also guided to register the data that is needed in SAP and that it is also correct. For example, a partial or final “quantity confirmation” that exceeds what was expected can result in a dialogue concerning the validity of the data, and where an explanation of the reason can also be requested.

The Windows terminal distinguishes itself by offering Team functionality and also a very advanced offline capacity. This means that a production team/cell equipped with ProMark on a pc or tablet has a very dedicated registering medium which, in the event of an IT failure, will still function at full capacity and therefore contribute towards ensuring that both personnel and the equipment can continue with the production.

Customised SAP interface

The integration between SAP and ProMark is defined once and for all in the installation process and only needs to be adjusted if new or expanded requirements develop over time.

The integration between SAP and ProMark covers the following specific functionalities:

  • HR Mini Master
  • Salary (Info type 2010)
  • The production modules PP, CS, PS, CO and MM (Material Management)

ALE (Application Link Enabling) is a prerequisite for integration in SAP and in relation to production, PP-PDC must be enabled.

The relevant input and output interface transactions are in place in ProMark to match SAP. They are all fully configurable in the event there is a need for additional data and information. ProMark’s SAP interface can be used with traditional file transfer, .NET BAPI call request, or via web services.