PPS systems: What is important in business practice? 

Industrial companies with a multi-variant product portfolio and multi-stage, mechanical production, in which many process participants are involved, have to cope with complex production planning. In many companies, this production planning can no longer be done manually. Precisely tailored production planning and control systems, which are commercially available, can help. By using PPS systems, internal processes can be coordinated and inventories reduced. 

Every PPS system should fulfill the core functions of production planning and control: 

Basic functions of PPS systems 

  • Material requirements planning (planning the flow of goods).
    • Primary requirements planning 
    • Secondary requirements planning 
  • cheduling and capacity planning (rough-cut planning) 
    • Scheduling of orders with their setup and production times against basically available capacities
  • Production program planning (cost and time-based detailed planning of the production sequence)
    • Setup time optimized order sequence 
    • Shift schedules and machine assignments taking into account maintenance work 
  • Order monitoring 
    • Deadline monitoring 
    • Flexible handling of short-term changes 

Depending on the production process, vertical range of manufacture, series, batch or single-part production, a PPS system should also cover other functions. 

Integration of PPS systems into the ERP system 

Before introducing a PPS system, it is advisable to critically review the processes in the company to determine their suitability. However, limiting the system to manufacturing processes would fall short, because decisions from all other operational functions flow into manufacturing and influence manufacturing effectiveness, manufacturing efficiency, product quality and on-time delivery. 

Accordingly, a PPS system must be able to access data from all relevant processes. This data is usually generated, stored and processed in ERP and PDC applications. In order to fulfill its functions, the PPS system requires access to the following data sources or documents in particular: 

  • Machine model and machine management (utilization)
  • Production orders 
  • Work preparation (production processes) with resulting routings and parts lists 
  • Feedback (working times, machine times, material, scrap, wear) 
  • Calculation 
  • Stocks
  • Purchasing processes 

For continuous processes, it is recommended that the PPS system be fully embedded in the company’s ERP system, or at least connected via real-time interfaces.  

A common database (master and process data) is a basic condition for smooth manufacturing processes. In addition, other interfaces can be useful: 

  • EDI interface for connection to other production sites 
  • Interface to financial accounting 

Types of PPS system solutions and providers 

There are different approaches to arrive at a PPS system solution, which will always be a decision between a standard solution, a modular solution and a custom programmed solution.  

Integrated solutions 

Pure ERP systems are not suitable for production planning because they cannot access feedback from the manufacturing process. ERP vendors are therefore increasingly offering PPS functionalities that are integrated into their ERP software application.  

These include the following cross-industry ERP system providers: 

Standard PPS solutions 

The least expensive are ready-configured standard solutions that meet the essential functionality requirements but are not very industry-specific. For most use cases, a standard solution is perfectly sufficient. Standard solutions are available for different company sizes, industries and manufacturing processes. Many standard solutions offer connections to ERP systems and interfaces to other production sites. 

The following companies, for example, are among the providers of standard solutions: 

Modular PPS solutions 

In addition to standard solutions, there are modular PPS system solutions that allow company-specific configuration. Through this modular combination, functions can be combined and/or industry references can be established. 

Providers of modular solutions include 

  • Modus, Modus Consult, Gütersloh (D), www.modusconsult.de    
    • Target industries:
      • Mechanical engineering
      • Plant engineering
      • Plastics industry 
  • PP EASE, Bock und Heitbreder Software Entwicklungs- und Vertriebsgesellschaft mbH, Bielefeld (D), https://www.bock-heitbreder.de/pp-ease.php    
    • Target industries:
      • Metal and plastics processing
      • Assembly production 

Individual PPS solutions 

At the upper end of the individualization possibilities are individually programmed PPS solutions. Of course, all special requests can be programmed. However, there is a danger of adapting PPS systems to introduced processes, even though the processes do not correspond to the state-of-art. In addition, individually programmed PPS solutions make updates and subsequent adjustments more difficult. The possible dependency on individual programmers must also be viewed critically. 

Process Mining Tools 

Since the availability of artificial intelligence applications in PPS solutions, scenarios can be planned in an agile manner and decisions can be supported in dynamic-complex environments. Such “intelligent” PPS systems are called “process mining tools”. 

Providers of such process mining tools include the following companies: 

  • Abbyy 
  • Celonis 
  • IBM Cognitive Technology
  • Mehrwerk 
  • Microsoft Minit 
  • QPR Software 
  • Software AG 
  • SAP Signavio
  • UIPath 

Supply Chain Management Solutions

With increasing networking of industrial companies, cross-site planning and control are gaining in importance. To meet this requirement of being able to plan and control value chains or even value networks, PPS systems are being integrated into supply chain management solutions or even replaced by them. Supply chain management applications evolve from the ERP applications in which PPS solutions are embedded. This allows manufacturing processes to be planned and managed in real time across multiple locations via the Internet. By using supply chain management solutions, industrial companies can streamline manufacturing processes and reduce inventory in the value chain. In order for a supply chain management solution to be used across all sites, it needs access to relevant data from the ERP and PDA systems of the sites. 

The all-rounders among supply chain management solution providers include: 

  • Aspen Tech/Chesapeake
  • ERP LN (formerly Baan) 
  • I2 
  • Logility 
  • Manugistics 
  • Oracle (Peoplesoft)
  • Paragon 
  • SAP 
  • SCT/Fygir 
  • Synquest 
  • Thru-Put
  • Webplan 

In addition, there are a number of niche players, including the following vendors: 

  • ASP  
  • LPA  
  • Mercia
  • NumetrixSynquest 
  • Thru-Put 
  • Webplan 

Daneben gibt es eine Reihe von Nischen-Players, darunter folgende Anbieter: 

  • ASP
  • LPA  
  • Mercia 
  • Numetrix 

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