With MAPICS Comes Wisdom

Manufacturers using MAPICS Inc.'s enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution can now streamline planning and scheduling processes while cutting costs and production time thanks to the recently released MAPICS XA Wisdom. As a compliment to the ERP suite, this Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) solution integrates material and capacity planning capabilities with scheduling. Wisdom is designed to significantly reduce process time associated with traditional scheduling solutions by running associated planning and analysis simultaneously instead of individually. Traditional solutions fail to coordinate planning activities, instead handling each as a separate function on an isolated basis, which considers only one resource at a time.

"The intent of Wisdom is to fix the flaws inherent in traditional planning," says Joe Phellan, product marketing manager for research planning at MAPICS (Atlanta). "Instead of having a series of segregated steps and dividing between the material side and the planning side of the equation, Wisdom brings the elements together and synchronizes all the variables needed to manage, and the product parts that will satisfy the demand."

Wisdom synchronizes the planning and scheduling of every resource -- raw materials, tools, machines and manpower -- to their point of consumption. The process maximizes efficiency while setting realistic delivery dates. It even adjusts delivery dates when an unforeseen circumstance develops, whereas traditional solutions consider resources as infinite and therefore don’t recognize an unexpected shortage or schedule delay as a reason to adjust the schedule. This capability helps the manufacturer maintain its credibility as it prevents over-committing resources and making promises it cannot keep.

"The system is extremely fast," Phellan says. "It is different from traditional planning solutions which usually take hours and sometimes days to complete a planning cycle and result in a lot of exception messages or actions that need to happen. With Wisdom, the typical planning cycle that lasts eight hours can be reduced to four minutes and even down to seconds."

Meanwhile exceptions or possible problems do not render the system helpless or in error as they do many older systems since Wisdom takes into consideration 20 common problems, such as late orders, capacity bottlenecks and material shortages. It includes a problem resolution capability that recommends alternative plans that overcome the problem and maintain the established delivery date. Previously, management had to troubleshoot performance problems and initiate another course of action, such as forced overtime for all manufacturing personnel. Wisdom also deploys a "what-if?" capability to anticipate common problems, and determine their effect even before a delivery date is set, giving management a realistic scenario for establishing deadlines.

"The ‘what-if?’ capability gives manufacturers the opportunity to review various scenarios and solutions to potential problems that may occur. This helps in the decision-making process without having to commit all of the company’s resources," Phellan says.

MAPICS designed Wisdom to be transaction-oriented so it processes data from one transaction to the next instead in a batch mode like some of its counterparts, Phellan explains. Other solutions deploy a batch system extract that moves all the data at once while Wisdom moves data to and from MAPICS XA one transaction at a time. The transaction approach delivers more user control and flexibility.

"For example, when an employee, who is considered a critical resource calls in sick, I have to be able to react very quickly to understand all of the ramifications of that unplanned capacity outage," Phellan says. "These systems can recognize the transactions that trigger the event by showing that a critical resource has not clocked in by a certain time period. It can then run another schedule that adjusts to the change."

Wisdom also caters to the needs of the mid-sized manufacturer, where the absence of one or two employees can disrupt a schedule. Large manufacturers could compensate for such a temporary loss with little or no adjustments.

"We like to say this has been designed directly to the mid-sized market," Phellan says. "The mid-sized market has more limited resources in terms of people, which often perform multiple functions, and in terms of finances. They look for a very low risk solution that improves their chances of success and return on investment. I think they look for a single vendor solution."

Medium-sized companies can start realizing performance gains with reductions in excess inventory and improved customer service in one to six months after implementing an APS system like Wisdom, according to Industry Directions, a Boston-based market analyst firm. Industry Directions claims that most customers can receive a full return on investment for their APS systems within one year.

Traditional planning solutions do not coordinate the planning of material and capacity but rather handle them on an isolated basis so that one resource is considered at a time. "We are bringing user demand and the manufacturing process closer together and making them meet with less hassle and more automation," Phellan says.