APS System: Efficient detailed planning and scheduling for your smart factory

por Manfred Moser
Man in front of computer with screen for ADVARIS APS system

A large number of articles on the IoT, Industry 4.0 and the smart factory promote the idea that you can get by with simple rough planning in the ERP system and decentralized control units in production. This, however, is true at best for very simply structured types of production.

Intelligent detailed planning with the help of advanced planning and scheduling (APS) is a mission-critical issue for companies in more complex environments, such as in the cable industry or in multi-stage batch production in the process industry. To survive the transformation to the smart factory, the optimization of production processes requires detailed knowledge of the entire order flow for a product as well as the condition and the resource utilization across all manufacturing stages.

In this article you will learn how APS systems support you in mapping the detailed planning of your smart factory and turning your factory into an intelligent enterprise for Industry 4.0.


Advantages of detailed planning with APS systems

Software solutions for advanced planning and scheduling (APS) map the detailed order planning across the entire supply chain of a production company. As a central planning instance, it creates an overview of resource utilization from real-time production data and provides for adjustment and optimization on a permanent basis.

For efficient detailed planning in the digital smart factory, all of the processes, resources, employees and equipment involved as well as delivery deadlines are taken into account to ensure optimal utilization. The software responds flexibly to changes and adjusts the planning accordingly.

The advantages of detailed planning using an APS system include:

  • Deadline compliance and reliability as a supplier (good ranking in supplier evaluations by customers)
  • High flexibility in the case of last-minute changes with regard to target dates, target quantities or product specifications
  • Cost reduction in production through optimized setup sequences (less downtime due to setting up of machines and thus higher plant utilization, also less start-up scrap) and lower WIP inventories
  • Responsiveness in the event of malfunctions (machine breakdowns etc.)
  • Support for investment decisions (what-if simulations e.g. for the procurement of new machines or tuning of existing equipment)

Especially in the case of last-minute changes affecting the entire production chain, winning companies are those with intelligent detailed order planning: When your customer presents you with the challenge of wanting to make changes in the middle of the production process – “50% of the ordered quantity must now suddenly have a different sheath color and be delivered on larger reels” – an APS system shows you the options for best fulfilling this customer request while minimizing “collateral damage”.


Requirements for the practical use of an APS system

In order to get the most out of your APS system, you should not build an isolated solution but firmly incorporate detailed order planning in your production process and existing software infrastructure. To ensure the timeliness and responsiveness of planning, the APS system should be part of the manufacturing execution system (MES) or at least very closely integrated with the MES.

The APS system should not replace the existing software solutions in the company but complement them in a practical way. Ideally, it networks existing systems to optimize the supply chain and automate processes. This is how you create the smart production of the future using intelligent tools.

Other requirements for the optimal use of an APS system are:

  • Accurate master data of products and resources
    • Routings and bills of materials for all production variants of a product (alternative machines and material)
    • Material, machines, tools and personnel
  • Current feedback data from production
    • Machine status
    • Status of tools and other operating resources
    • Availability of raw materials and semi-finished products in production
    • Order status, quantities produced
    • Expected downtime for maintenance/repair

Industry-specific constraints in the production process must be sufficiently reflected in the APS algorithm. Especially in demanding manufacturing sectors such as the cable industry, looking only at the total order quantities, for example, is not enough. Consideration of the individual lengths and reel sizes in the individual production stages is absolutely essential. If the algorithm is not “smart” enough, the effort required for manual post-processing of the planning result quickly becomes unacceptably high.

In order to correctly take into account the availability of raw materials and purchased semi-finished products, the APS must know not only the current inventory levels but also the planned receipts (purchase orders and order proposals) from the ERP system. Networking with your company’s already established ERP software is of immense importance at this point.

Manual interventions in planning should be the exception, but must still be easy to perform within the software. The APS system must use plausibility checks and warnings to ensure that the technical and organizational constraints of factory operations are also taken into account even in the case of manual changes to planning.

A modern APS system must provide the option of easily and quickly creating different planning variants (scenarios) and evaluating them comparatively. It is possible e.g. to play through these variants in advance in order to decide whether it is really worthwhile to start up another machine or split up an order and perform parallel processing of its parts. As a result, you get reliable information regarding adherence to deadlines, resource requirements and production costs.

Meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) are needed to evaluate alternative planning scenarios. The most important key performance indicators include the total costs of a production plan, consisting of:

  • Default costs (penalties)
  • Inventory costs
  • Material costs
  • Machine costs
  • Set-up costs
  • Energy costs


Medium and long-term production planning with APS

The APS system is not only used for short-term detailed planning of production for the next week. An APS system also offers decisive advantages for medium- and long-term production planning.

A good APS system provides support with:

  • Quotation management
    Determination of possible delivery dates with evaluation of any additional costs (for rush orders).
  • Production program planning
    Determination of capacity utilization and material requirements expected in the following year



The smart factory is only as intelligent as its detailed planning system. In a sense, detailed planning is the brain of the smart factory, forming the basis for all decisions at the production and resource level.

Today there is no longer any reason to use simplified rough planning procedures for longer-term capacity planning and to use a sophisticated APS system in your smart factory only for short-term detailed planning.

With a powerful APS system you are able to set up your entire factory – and thus several thousand orders – in detailed planning in just a few minutes. The necessary procedures and master data for the system are available anyway, regardless of whether the APS system is used only for planning the next week or additionally for planning the next 12 months. The decisive advantage is realistic and consistent production planning without rifts between rough and detailed planning as well as reliable information regarding scheduling, order planning and resources.



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