Guidelines for the APS Selection Process

The advanced planning system serves as the backbone and brain of a manufacturing company. All the other company organs are organized around the production schedule and carry out their tasks just-in-time for maximized efficiency. If the schedule is incorrect, this creates the most expensive type of waste.

Employing an effective production scheduling system is of critical importance.

The following guidelines for selecting an APS are based on functionality:

100% mapping of process rules and restrictions, without programming

  • Inaccuracy of a single percentile means that scheduling results (particularly, start and end timing) will be incorrect and need to be adjusted manually. A change to just one order affects all proceeding and parallel orders. As a result, the entire schedule become unrealistic and the planner is forced to return to manual planning in Excel.
  • In production planning, there is no middle-ground for a reliable schedule—it is either one hundred percent correct… or not.
  • Programming should not be necessary; it is time-intensive, expensive, and its functions cannot be guaranteed to be work consistently with other parameters. An APS with a large array of standard parameters circumvents the need for programming.

Multi-Level Finite-Capacity-Planning

  • Being able to oversee the availability of all resources and sub-resources is of great importance, because production cannot commence if a single one of these is unavailable.
  • In most cases, multiple levels of sub-resources must be considered, such as: machines, molds, jigs, tools, work stations, operators, etc.

Simultaneous Consideration of Resources and Material Availability

  • Availability and fluctuations of raw materials, as well as their consumption, incoming dates, timing, and priority must be monitored and considered for realistic scheduling.
  • The same goes for semi-finished and finished goods.

Customizable Planning Logic

  • Today, product manufacturing processes, including their many variants, are highly complex. Optimal planning results are not attainable by means of a simple planning logic that is merely capable of forward scheduling or backward scheduling.
  • Synchronizing processes results in shorter lead times and lower inventory. To that end, a highly-customizable planning logic is necessary.
  • The planning logic should be easily configurable and tailored to your requirements without any need for programming. In this way, you will be able to consistently produce optimized and realistic schedules, and easily achieve greater process synchronization..


  • Using simulation, it should be possible to reliably issue realistic delivery dates.
  • You should be able to quickly compute alternative scenarios in case of late raw material delivery, machine breakdown, rush orders, and delivery date or order volume changes.
  • The effects that dynamic simulations and changes to the original plan have on the entire production process should be immediately apparent.
  • Simulations that are based on various parameter settings should highlight variations in inventory changes and their effects on production.

Future KPI

  • Many companies document KPI to evaluate productivity, lead time, costs, inventory, and others from the production record. But such data is available only after the fact, and have little influence on the future.
  • Future KPI afford the advantage of simulating various business scenarios and production strategies, and can assist management in making profitable decisions before the production schedule is even issued..
  • Being able to analyze the schedule using KPI gives you foresight into the future, and with that, the ability to control it.
  • The APS should provide the ability to look into the schedule months and even years ahead.
  • Future KPI should be available for manufacturing costs, production lead time, value-adding time, non-value-adding time, setup time, resource productivity, inventory and many more—for the entire planning horizon, including all orders for months and years in advance.
  • Periodic KPI for specific time periods
  • Product KPI for specific time periods
  • Resource KPI for specific time periods
  • Customer KPI for specific time periods

Computing Speed

Business circumstances that change daily require the planner to make simulations to find the best production schedule that is possible. It is important that this not take several hours—preferably this should be completed within minutes or seconds.


  • As the saying goes, "One picture is worth more than 1000 words." This holds true especially when managing data.
  • An APS should include powerful and customizable visualization tools.
  • Some scientific data backs up this observation: The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than textual information.
  • Around 40 percent of all the brain's nerve cells are connected to the retina (eye).
  • Visual data accounts for almost 90 percent of all information processed by the brain.

Flexible Interface to the IT-Environment

Allows for access to multiple systems, including the ERP system, MES, data acquisition system, etc.

  • Survey order status and lead times for months in advance.
  • Observe and visualize current and planned production orders.
  • Bottlenecks are detected early so that "fire-fighting activities" can be avoided.
  • Visual management enables a "look into the future". This, in turn, enables frontloading management and identification of the most cost-effective planning scenario.

White Box instead of Black Box

  • A black box does not, as the name implies, allow for study of the inner mechanisms. An APS which behaves like a black box can be a significant liability, as the logic between parameters of all levels and planning results cannot be traced! For realistic planning results, the logical consistency between parameters and the planning logic must be transparent and understandable.
  • With a white box APS system, your planners are enabled to educate themselves, becoming their own APS experts who are capable of making adjustments and improvements on their own, without the need for programming or support from the vendor!
  • A white box advises the planner and the manager on how to improve factory results, helping them to choose the best planning scenario!

Software License Cost

  • The planning system has a great influence on:
  • Production lead time
  • Inventory levels
  • Cash flow
  • Resource productivity
  • Manufacturing costs
  • License and implementation costs:
  • The choice of an APS should be based on the value it can return in relation to these points.
  • With a APS tool that is able to improve all 5 points, ROI is quickly realized—often within one year and several times over. The greatest cost of an APS system can be in choosing one that doesn't have the functions required to generate a realistic schedule—the danger exists that after a few years there will still be no improvements or cost reductions!
  • The most important aspect of APS is that it contains the software functionality that will help reduce manufacturing costs.