Companies utilize production planning software and related scheduling/optimization tools to plan on many different horizons. They do so for both short-term and long-term projections, and to handle inventories, bring products to market, and serve customers more efficiently. These types of innovative enterprise tools contain many different components that help project managers, executives and others keep tabs on what’s happening with production in a given environment.
Data Aggregation Tools
One big component of production planning software is digital operations that bring data from one point in the system to another, centralizing it in repositories for analysis. Systems have to be able to effectively analyze what’s happening in the field and bring that, in the form of reporting information, to the stakeholders, who will review it and act accordingly.
Often, much of this data is entered manually into the system, or it’s generated through the use of scanners, barcode machines and other equipment. Either way, getting the data in play is one of the key parts of setting up a successful production planning software solution that helps firms compete.
A Good Central Interface
All of the functionality of a production planning software offering comes together in a graphic interface that users navigate in order to make use of production information. This interface should be easy to use, making use of controls and space in an intuitive way.
A good interface helps companies get the information they need to keep inventory levels sufficient, deliver well and reduce or eliminate waste in business processes. After all, visibility is a big issue in software. Engineers carefully design visual dashboards to be able to present information that business leaders need to make decisions about inventory and production.
Other components of production planning software analyze key performance indicators, or KPIs. For example, a company may look at what percentages of deliveries are made on time, how much inventory is in a given business location, or how effective invoices are on a regular basis. The actual KPIs that businesses use vary quite a bit – but these indicators impact how the business works. Other KPIs can be related to manufacturing orders, use of equipment, plans for deliveries, costs, and total deviations in the amount of stock kept in a warehouse.
By designing software products to work with KPIs, the vendors empower businesses to measure them in detail. This reveals what’s happening inside their business model, assisting with their planning and scheduling.
Other kinds of key performance indicators relate specifically to production timelines. Some of these software tools also label “make-to-stock” or “make-to-order” analysis components that show timelines for a given step of a product life cycle.
Project managers benefit greatly from having production planning and scheduling timeline tools on their desks. That’s why these components of the overall software interface should be easy to find and easy to use. Some of the best choices come with very detailed production and scheduling timeline information that’s shown in visual graphs or charts.
Cloud Delivery Models
Having the ability to deliver production planning software through the cloud is another key selling point for this type of software offering. In general, cloud and software-as-a-service models enable vendors to serve customers better, targeting their needs more precisely. Client companies can use subscription pricing and on-demand models to gain elasticity and scale the business more effectively and efficiently. They can develop better working relationships with vendors, and have more visibility into what they’re ordering, and how they’re using it.
MRP for Manufacturers
Other features and components of production planning software tie into a physical manufacturing environment. Some of these tools may have some relevance to shop floor controls like machine-to-machine learning, conveyor belt scanning or other technologies. This depends on the particular business model of the manufacturer, or the other company that makes the physical products.
Customer Relationship Management Software
Some production planning software may include a CRM component or interface within the system. Customer relationship management software ensures that the business knows a lot about its customers — not just their names and contact info, but what they’re doing, what they need and how they’re likely to respond to various types of messaging.
Inventory Management and Sales Tools
Other parts of production planning software bridge the gap between the inventory process and the sales process. Order management tools help start analyzing how products leave the shop or the warehouse and go into the field, while sales quoting tools help those who are responsible for selling to do a better job.
Look for all of these different types of functionality when evaluating production planning software. The more features it provides, the more benefits you’ll reap from the system. And at the same time, you’ll also please a lot more people, from your executives all the way down to your entry-level production teams.