There are many resources behind every supply chain — including people, production equipment, transportation assets, and more — and they’re often linked and dependent on each other. The more resources involved, the more complexity there is to efficiently plan and schedule those resources in a smart and synchronized manner.
“Suppose you have just 5 tasks that you want to assign to 5 different people,” explained Dr. Edwin Lohmann, Business Unit Director at Quintiq in a recent episode of Talking Logistics. “It’s a relatively simple one-dimensional problem, but even in this case you have thousands of different options or schedules that you could evaluate to find the most effective one. But if you now add another dimension to it, for example, you also have 5 different pieces of equipment involved, you now have hundreds of thousands of different options to look at — the complexity explodes! The companies we work with have thousands of employees, tasks, and pieces of equipment, so the problem becomes almost incomprehensible; you can have the very best planners and schedulers, but the complexity goes beyond the capability of any human mind.”
When you have to plan and schedule different types of resources, what are some key factors in keeping them all aligned? “The main thing that I would advise, and it sounds like a no brainer, is to schedule these different resources together [instead of doing it sequentially in a siloed manner], which is something that is not common practice yet,” said Lohmann. He explains further in the short clip below:
“In a lot of cases, the process that is followed is to first schedule the most constrained resource, which is also probably your most expensive one, and then use the results as input for creating the schedule for your other resources,” said Lohmann. “For example, in a trucking scenario, let’s first make sure we have a plan that works for all of our trucks and then figure out how we’re going to execute it with our drivers. And this could actually be a good approach, but only if the resources you are scheduling later on are very flexible. So in this case, I created a plan for my trucks and I have full flexibility to do what I want with my drivers to make sure the schedule works out. But in most multi-resource scheduling cases, [you don’t have that flexibility] because the resources actually influence each other and are very restricted.”
A factor that progressive companies are starting to incorporate into their planning process is employee happiness — that is, incorporating their preferences into the process. Lohmann put it this way:
“As an employee you can say, I can do these five different jobs, but I prefer doing job number one. Or I know I can work any shift, but I prefer having Thursday nights off because that’s when my kid plays baseball. [With the right planning system and approach], you can start taking these things into account, making your employees happy, and therefore getting a better end result. Happy employees are good employees.”
I encourage you to watch the rest of my conversation with Edwin (embedded below) where he talks about the role emerging technologies like mobility, predictive analytics, and cloud computing are playing in multi-resource scheduling, but I’ll wrap up with the three questions that Edwin proposes companies should ask themselves to assess whether their multi-resource scheduling capabilities are aligned with leading practices:
- Do you have all of the necessary data and information all in one place?
- Do you see people doing planning and scheduling using email, Outlook, and Excel?
- Do you actually know what the quality of your plan is for tomorrow or do you rely on reports after the fact?
If your data and information is scattered and fragmented, if email, Outlook, and Excel are your primary planning and scheduling tools, and if you don’t know how well you did until the day after, then those are clear signs that you have significant room to improve.
Watch full episode: