Exception Based Scheduling – the most efficient way to plan your factory – Part 1

Posted by Chris Curtis on 17-Nov-2020 12:48:51

“We switched on alerts when we first went live, but we just ignore them now as there are far too many”

Does that sound familiar?

Incorrectly configured alert profiles achieve little more than noise creation within an organisation and provide a distraction from where a planner should really invest their time and attention. However, focused alerts with clearly defined tolerances allows schedulers to focus on real supply issues and is proven to provide real time and cost savings within your business.


Furthermore, personalised alerts which are tailored to the needs of the individual are easily definable in SAP scheduling solutions, with tolerances changed by the scheduler themselves within seconds.

Automating your schedule

Of the short-term planning solutions that I have encountered when working with companies of varying sizes, across multiple industry types, I can usually classify them into one of two groups:

  • Highly manual
  • Complexly automated

Which category does your company fall into?

Typical characteristics of the first group would include a planning team containing a larger headcount, high number of hours spent working and reworking a plan when impacted by production downtime, poor throughput, or supplier unreliability.

Characteristics of the second group would usually be largely automated schedules, generated by complex combinations of heuristics and multi-constrained optimizers to arrive at an end result, which quite often, but not in all cases, requires an element of rework to be achievable.

One argument might be that the second would sound the most appealing, and provide “more bang for your buck”, but a lot of companies fall into the trap of over-automating their scheduling solution, and this can quite often be driven by a shift in strategy – a need to reduce headcount is a prime example of this.

Many companies can then become guilty of overengineering their system processes by including almost every constraint that exists within their shop floor. This quite often leads to an unworkable and opaque scheduling result which the scheduler would need to spend a lot of time redefining prior to execution anyway.

There is a common misconception that if you are to automate processes, this removes the need for scheduler input. This is true to a certain extent for those activities that add no value, but there is no substitute for the experience that a scheduler can provide to their role, especially when making key decisions based upon soft knowledge and the current situation of the business. If you were to automate those key decisions that can in reality go either way depending upon a number of key factors, then you could end up with very different finished production schedules as a result.

We find that the right mix of automation and alert management can provide the best return for your investment. This allows your schedulers to interactively schedule by exception and means that they can remain focused on solving only the real problems that matter within your supply chain and drive key decision making, resulting in improved asset utilisation, greater visibility of inventory, and increased agility. The benefits can be further realised in the form of better schedule conformance, providing a more stable input to downstream processes and to procurement schedules.

This warrants the question, what is the right level of automation for your company?

At Olivehorse, our expertise and cross-industry experience can help you to answer that question. We find that the answer differs greatly depending upon the type and frequency of constraints faced, skill-levels within the team, and level of adherence to plan. Our approach encompasses the main elements required for an effective Supply Chain - People, Processes and Technology, which means we can help you to arrive at the perfect scheduling solution for your company.

Please look out for Part 2 of this blog where we will be providing further insight into exception-based scheduling, including real life examples within SAP Production Planning & Detailed Scheduling (PP/DS).


Part 2 will be released on Tuesday 24th November .

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Chris Curtis-1Chris Curtis is the Scheduling & Execution practice lead and has been with Olivehorse for over 2 years. In total he has 14 years’ experience in designing and implementing planning and scheduling solutions, and prior to that he was a Production Scheduler in the Automotive industry.


Olivehorse can help you understanding your companies options and requirements with regards to your SAP APO PP/DS roadmap and scheduling challenges.

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