Choosing the right detailed scheduling system is no piece of cake, but there are two fundamental factors you should take into account, namely the complexity of your operations and the maturity of your planning team. If you fail to consider those two factors, you are at a high risk of falling prey to so-called ‘black box syndrome’.
Respect the Pareto rule
Twenty percent of the complexity provides eighty percent of the value, according to the Pareto principle. Although that 80-20 rule is well-known, a lot of organizations find it difficult to make the right decision when choosing their scheduling system. We know of companies that want their scheduling tool to address 80 percent of their operational complexity. That makes the planning model so complex that it provides no evidence to help users understand why the tool makes certain suggestions. As long as the scheduling proposals are aligned with the past then everything is hunky dory, but what if the proposal isn’t in line with the planners’ expectations? If the complexity of the model means that the planners don’t understand the reasons behind the scheduling proposal, they will perceive the planning system as a black box.
And no one likes a black box. Therefore, it’s not unusual for planners to try to manipulate the planning system to the point that the system makes the calculations they expect. This is what we call the ‘black box syndrome’: by altering the parameters, the planners limit the system capabilities. As a consequence, any operational progress that the organization could possibly achieve by implementing the intelligent scheduling system will be lost.
Create a healthy ecosystem
The maturity of the planning team is a crucial factor in the above-mentioned situation. Planners who lack knowledge of modeling methods and algorithms won’t be able to manage a complex system. Therefore, the complexity of the planning system has to go hand in hand with the maturity of the planning organization. To ensure the right maturity level of the team, it’s advisable to create a healthy ecosystem with a balanced mix of more mature planners and less mature ones.
Choose a phased approach
In brief, the starting point for a good scheduling solution is to define the stable core of products for which you need more complex optimization techniques. Rather than applying 20 different techniques, start with some basic scheduling methods and gradually add more complexity in a later phase. This will allow the planning team members to grow in their roles and to understand the scheduling principles the tool utilizes. If you’re looking for external software consultants to advise you in this matter, befriend the ones who talk about simplicity rather than complexity. And look before you leap, because a stitch in time saves nine!
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