Use of Microsoft Project for Production Planning


M

Michael Thompson

I am interested in using Microsoft Project to represent production plans.
Specifically, I am interested in representing the flow of workpieces through
a series of machine tools/processes. I am interested in tracking the
utilization of the separate machines, human operators, materials, and other
resources. The various charting and reporting provided by Project would be
very helpful in order to optimize the process flow, identify bottlenecks, etc.

Unfortunately, I have not found this to be possible for at least two reasons:

1. Recurring tasks as implemented in Project do not represent true cyclic
tasks as the cycle periods cannot be specified in any unit less than days.
For example, a machine cycle time (duration) might be only 10-15 minutes and
might repeat on a period of 30 minutes.

2. Task repetitions may need to be specified using advanced rules. For
example, assume that I manufacture pieces in a continuous stream but choose
to inspect only one part out of every five. That means that I will have an
inspection task that should be triggered after every fifth part is machined.

I realize that Microsoft Project is a project planning tool and not a
production workflow planning tool. However, it has many of the features
needed to address production workflow planning. I am wondering if anyone
else has tried to use it in this way an, if so, how did you go about
overcoming the concerns noted above?
 
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R

Rob Schneider

Michael said:
I am interested in using Microsoft Project to represent production plans.
Specifically, I am interested in representing the flow of workpieces through
a series of machine tools/processes. I am interested in tracking the
utilization of the separate machines, human operators, materials, and other
resources. The various charting and reporting provided by Project would be
very helpful in order to optimize the process flow, identify bottlenecks, etc.

Unfortunately, I have not found this to be possible for at least two reasons:

1. Recurring tasks as implemented in Project do not represent true cyclic
tasks as the cycle periods cannot be specified in any unit less than days.
For example, a machine cycle time (duration) might be only 10-15 minutes and
might repeat on a period of 30 minutes.

2. Task repetitions may need to be specified using advanced rules. For
example, assume that I manufacture pieces in a continuous stream but choose
to inspect only one part out of every five. That means that I will have an
inspection task that should be triggered after every fifth part is machined.

I realize that Microsoft Project is a project planning tool and not a
production workflow planning tool. However, it has many of the features
needed to address production workflow planning. I am wondering if anyone
else has tried to use it in this way an, if so, how did you go about
overcoming the concerns noted above?
Project is not built for this, and all reports I've read here in recent
years suggests that it's never been successful at doing what you
suggest. I'm sure packages exist out there to do this; and if I had a
choice of making Project work or programme something in some sort of
simulation or other high level language--I'd go with the latter.
 
M

Michael Thompson

Thanks Rob. That's what I thought. It's a pity though because the problem
of resource planning/reporting is very much the same regardless of whether
the resources are people or machines (or some combination) and regardless of
whether the time units are months, days, minutes, or milliseconds.

My company does use a tool called Witness to model production work flows.
Witness can also be used to animate the process (movement of pieces, humans,
machinery, etc.). However, there are features in Microsoft Project that I
thought might be beneficial if production planning could be done in Project
without too much difficulty. That doesn't appear to be the case though.

Thanks again.
 
R

Rob Schneider

Michael said:
Thanks Rob. That's what I thought. It's a pity though because the problem
of resource planning/reporting is very much the same regardless of whether
the resources are people or machines (or some combination) and regardless of
whether the time units are months, days, minutes, or milliseconds.

My company does use a tool called Witness to model production work flows.
Witness can also be used to animate the process (movement of pieces, humans,
machinery, etc.). However, there are features in Microsoft Project that I
thought might be beneficial if production planning could be done in Project
without too much difficulty. That doesn't appear to be the case though.

Thanks again.
Michael,

I've heard of Witness, but know nothing. I know that the people who
developed it come from an Operations Research background so it's
probably a better match for your world. Don't know, though. You've
inspired me to go look at their web site. (When I first heard of Witness
and observed my colleagues using it, there was no World Wide Web).

Sounds like you might be on the leading edge. If you have some ideas
and think it can be useful to you ... go for it. Just because there are
few reports of success doesn't at all mean you can't have success.
 
J

Jan De Messemaeker

Hi,

Whetever has been written here, Project is very well suited for production
scheduling - if you talk batch production, each order is unique, steps
through the machines (each step being a task)... works with very few and
minor problems.

It's very easy to say that "there MUST be products..". do realize that
Microsoft's AXAPTA, containing a production MANAGEMENT system, points to
Microsoft Project as the ideal scheduling tool!!

The problem is not that Project can't handle production, it can't handle
repeated tasks, i.e. processes - it's like trying to optimize work in an
administrative cell in a bank, just as impossible.
And unfortunately, your problem is of a repetitive nature:-(
--
Jan De Messemaeker
Microsoft Project Most Valuable Professional
+32 495 300 620
For availability check:
http://users.online.be/prom-ade/Calendar.pdf
 
J

JNB

Hi,

To my best knowledge,
Job shop scheduling systems assign resources to tasks (resources being
machines and tasks being operations) automatically based on availability.
This is by design.
Project does not make any automatic assignments. This is again by design.
 
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S

Steve House

The problem is not so much the time units as it is that production is open
ended and repetitious, going on (one hopes) forever, while projects are
closed ended, finishing when a unique deliverable has been created.
Scheduling software is designed to calculate the shortest schedule that gets
to the ending point. Since production doesn't have an end point, there's
nothing for Project to calculate.
 
J

Jan De Messemaeker

Hi Steve,

There is not just an ocean, bout a whole world of difference between both
sides of the Atlantic.
Let's talk about the definition of "production".
You simply state that "Production is open ended".
Well there is this kind of production sure, car industry for instance, but
this side of the ocean that only represents a relatively small part of the
manufacturing companies.
Most of that work is now done in China, India or Eastern Europe.
"Production" often means here the production of small quantities (often only
1 piece) of a complex, high value product.
You will immediately appreciate that this DOES constitute a project, and
Project is rather well fit for scheduling that - so good that Microsoft's
Axapta recommends it for scheduling.

So when people ask me about Project for production problems I ask about
which kind of production they mean, and my answer depends on theirs. It
simply may be bad advice to say "No, not fit, look for an other product"
when maybe there is a perfect match..

Greetings,

--
Jan De Messemaeker
Microsoft Project Most Valuable Professional
+32 495 300 620
For availability check:
http://users.online.be/prom-ade/Calendar.pdf
 
S

Steve House

We agree completely. I use the example of the aircraft industry in my
classes - each unit of the Airbus that rolls out of the plant looks like
pretty much every other unit to the eye of someone who doesn't know much
about the industry. But in fact each order is for a unique product, one
that is highly customized to the customer's requirements, and because each
order is a closed system with observable beginning and ending points and
consists of a set of definable activities, each order can easily be treated
as a project. In fact one of my clients is doing exactly that. Project
management software works quite well for scheduling such production. But
it's not so good for on-going activities. If you're constructing a new
operating theatre for a hospital, Project is a good tool to use for
scheduling the various activities required to bring it online. But for
scheduling the surgeries on an on-going basis after the new facility is
operational, it's not so good.
 
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Hi

Thank you all for the discussion

I am trying to use Ms Project for scheduling a batch production process in a chemical industry.

What I have done is group the tasks involved in a batch using a summary task. So different batches are represented by different summary tasks.

MS project schedules the batches in such a way that each batch starts as soon as possible. This leads to increase in lead time and work in process because there will be lot of waiting at the bottleneck operation.

Is there any tool with which I can schedule the tasks in such a way that all tasks within a group are scheduled as closely as possible?

Thanks
Sailesh
 

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