APS, or Advanced Planning and Scheduling, forms an extremely vital part of the Industry 4.0 narrative. APS is the bridge between market demand, sales projections, planning and actual execution at the plant level. With rising levels of automation, massive amounts of data generated, unpredictable markets as a backlash after the pandemic, and the need to react with surety in times of uncertainty, makes APS imperative for companies pursuing Industry 4.0 level operations. APS allows for complex flows to be orchestrated in response to external events and adjusts production planning in an automated, well defined and controlled manner. Changes are incorporated seamlessly into production execution and the entire operation remains controlled and optimized incrementally and automatically, based on corrections made from captured improvements.  

Industry 4.0 and related benefits for manufacturing stem from highly integrated, hyper- connected IT applications which enable end-to-end visibility, automated actions, impeccable quality and reliable performance. Modern MES platforms are seen as the backbone of Industry 4.0 projects, owning to their vast functional coverage, integration with other enterprise, automation and hyper-focused solutions. Coupled with the ability to collect data from the edge and provide context, these MES platforms make information manifested to a stakeholder actionable and insightful. An ideal MES platform plans and schedules the necessary execution in sync with supply chain developments in near real time, building agility into the process being executed, which in term boosts the resilience much desired in volatile markets.

No wonder then that Scheduling should be native to MES.

The graphic below shows a sample of data flows between MES and Scheduling. The important distinction is that MES provides ‘actuals’ of event outcomes; APS is theoretical, displaying planned outcomes expected.

A sample of the many data flows between MES and Scheduling

There is a constant flow of information to and from the scheduling application and the MES. This allows each to track the status of equipment, tools, material and manpower; register KPI-related data; track progress of WIP; and accommodate changes as experienced, whether triggered internally through operations or externally through supply partners or end customers.

Pitfalls of having scheduling reside outside of MES

From an IT perspective. Whenever IT needs to work with two separate applications, there are obvious challenges to be faced, especially if there are differences in the tech stack, master data schema and application version/infrastructure. The set up requires two separate projects, which is inefficient and which requires application integration, costing both time and money. It may require the use of middleware and the conversion of master data in order to ensure proper integration– again, effort from a time and cost perspective.

Further, as both applications are separate, updates and changes may be cumbersome to execute and roll out from an integration and data reliability perspective. Users requiring access and use of both APS and MES must deal with changing UIs, design and nomenclatures. Finally, and most importantly, the need to duplicate and align master data, using complex interfaces will always be a challenge, especially when considering the vast amounts of data from the shop floor, fed through IoT sensors and process equipment/automation. 

The Operations perspective. For operations personnel, using two applications duplicates the UIs, complicates the learning curve and may lead to data discrepancies and delayed information from the systems. From an execution perspective, schedules can’t be enforced automatically as the APS remains a separate system.

Unless the schedules are created on the same platform, automated, synchronized execution is a challenge. Since the applications are provided from separate vendors/providers, there is an integration perspective.  Data transfer between applications could cause decision lags, defeating the Industry 4.0 requirement for quick and decisive responses.   

A Native Scheduling can make all the difference

Industry 4.0 relies on connectivity and the ability to process massive amounts of data in real time, with intelligence added to the data through deployment of AI and ML. Following this analogy, it becomes exceedingly clear that integration across applications is an absolute requirement.  However, where applications like MES and APS are considered, they need to be more than integrated – they need to be in one unified framework. When the Scheduling resides on the MES as a module, scheduling becomes part of execution. It is able to leverage all process information in real time, adjusted as the MES gets updated. This is what Industry 4.0 demands – speed and accuracy.

When the APS resides on the MES as a module, scheduling becomes part of execution.

When the APS shares the MES’s infrastructure, design and schema, and data related to workers, machines and materials are all easily accessible. Planning and execution personnel can make faster decisions with greater accuracy. In this state, scheduling is always synchronized with execution. Changes, whether demand triggered or internally driven,  can be used to create alternate routes, change orders on lines or can stop a particular process step from execution, in real time. It can perform continuous optimization as the application learns through a cause and effect analysis how changes trigger shop floor actions.

Since the schedule follows and adapts to operational queues collected right from manufacturing’s edge, it is not only executable, it can be easily enforced. Automated orchestration happens when APS and MES data are synchronized; allowing the creation of realistic flows and buffer creation to avoid unnecessary re-scheduling. Most importantly, the user experience is unified, removing duplicate UIs, unnecessary data input and application integration.

Go Native for Industry 4.0 Success

The advantages of a native APS for MES aren’t limited to manufacturing, but also manifest themselves in IT and business at large. For IT, working with one system removes the need for tedious system integration. A single software means that the same data model is used, allowing better control over calendars, resources and parameters. Data is cleaner and upgrades are easier in a single system, in comparison to two separate entities.  A single UI means faster user uptake and learning curve, plus better system security.

From a business perspective, first and foremost is the lower TCO, as there is just one system to deploy, one vendor to deal with and one expense to be made. Since planning and execution are synchronized, the responsiveness is better, which leads to operational flexibility and responsiveness. This in turn creates agility and resilience, which translates to improved customer perception. The result? Better margins, higher throughput and more profit.

Most importantly though, an MES that natively includes APS allows critical control over disruptive events through automated orchestration. It allows for the evolution of new operational models and innovation, which is a major deliverable of Industry 4.0.

To learn more about the benefits of APS going native, read our White Paper.


APS Goes Native for Industry 4.0

White Paper

Learn why Advanced Planning and Scheduling must be an MES capability.