Planning & Scheduling
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Scheduling is the process of arranging, controlling and optimizing work and workloads in a production process or manufacturing process. Scheduling is used to allocate plant and machinery resources, plan human resources, plan production processes and purchase materials.
It is an important tool for manufacturing and engineering, where it can have a major impact on the productivity of a process. In manufacturing, the purpose of scheduling is to minimize the production time and costs, by telling a production facility when to make, with which staff, and on which equipment. Production scheduling aims to maximize the efficiency of the operation and reduce costs.
In some situations, scheduling can involve random attributes, such as random processing times, random due dates, random weights, and stochastic machine breakdowns. In this case, the scheduling problems are referred to as Stochastic scheduling.
Advanced planning and scheduling (APS, also known as advanced manufacturing) refers to a manufacturing management process by which raw materials and production capacity are optimally allocated to meet demand. APS is especially well-suited to environments where simpler planning methods cannot adequately address complex trade-offs between competing priorities. Production scheduling is intrinsically very difficult due to the (approximately) factorial dependence of the size of the solution space on the number of items/products to be manufactured.
Difficulty of production planning
Traditional production planning and scheduling systems (such as manufacturing resource planning) use a stepwise procedure to allocate material and production capacity. This approach is simple but cumbersome, and does not readily adapt to changes in demand, resource capacity or material availability. Materials and capacity are planned separately, and many systems do not consider material or capacity constraints, leading to infeasible plans. However, attempts to change to the new system have not always been successful, which has called for the combination of management philosophy with manufacturing.
Unlike previous systems, APS simultaneously plans and schedules production based on available materials, labor and plant capacity.
APS has commonly been applied where one or more of the following conditions are present:
make to order (as distinct from make to stock) manufacturing
capital-intensive production processes, where plant capacity is constrained
products ‘competing’ for plant capacity: where many different products are produced in each facility
products that require a large number of components or manufacturing tasks
production necessitates frequent schedule changes which cannot be predicted before the event
Advanced planning & scheduling software enables manufacturing scheduling and advanced scheduling optimization within these environments.
Automated planning and scheduling, sometimes denoted as simply AI Planning, is a branch of artificial intelligence that concerns the realization of strategies or action sequences, typically for execution by intelligent agents, autonomous robots and unmanned vehicles. Unlike classical control and classification problems, the solutions are complex and must be discovered and optimized in multidimensional space. Planning is also related to decision theory.
In known environments with available models, planning can be done offline. Solutions can be found and evaluated prior to execution. In dynamically unknown environments, the strategy often needs to be revised online. Models and policies must be adapted. Solutions usually resort to iterative trial and error processes commonly seen in artificial intelligence. These include dynamic programming, reinforcement learning and combinatorial optimization. Languages used to describe planning and scheduling are often called action languages.
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