04 Dec Lechler paints an excellent picture using Preactor for scheduling its chemical processes.
Two production plants are located in Como and Foligno.
In 2010, Lechler identified a need to improve its planning process by adopting a production scheduling system.
Luigi Malinverno, the Lechler Site Manager, outlined the reasons for the project.
“We felt a need to improve our ability to manage the production process and its visibility. We also had to reduce the time spent preparing and updating the production schedule in order to be more reactive and punctual.”
The production process of Lechler has characteristics and peculiarities which had to be taken into account in order to achieve successful programming:
- Part of the production is for the warehouse and part for sales orders;
- A number of departments need to consider not only the availability of resources, but also the overall workload of that department;
- In some cases it is necessary to maintain the link between orders one-to-one of semi-finished and finished orders;
- The products being processed are stored in containers, both fixed and mobile. The capacity of these containers is a constraint for scheduling;
- The machining needs to flow easily through the various phases, without excessive stops and delays.
Due to these complexities, Lechler chose a path of gradual implementation which would allow it to start using Preactor in just a few months, and then refine the model over time in order to optimize the results.
The project began in the autumn of 2010.
The first stages of the project involved the preparation and development of the data feed for Preactor.
The interface between SAP and Preactor was developed by EDP Lechler. When the data was ready, constraints to take into account the availability of workshops and groups of resources were analysed and implemented.
By the end of 2010 Preactor was being used for scheduling.
In 2011 the project refined the constraints on different departments and the rules by which production orders were bound together, following the BOM structure and the type of orders.
The last phase of the project involved the introduction of the fixed and mobile tanks into the model.
This was done gradually because their use differs according to the type of material being processed.
The project was carried out on a continuous basis, allowing Lechler to carry out ongoing improvements to the scheduling model and the quality of data being fed into it.
The results collected by Lechler during the project were very impressive:
- Reduction in hours spent scheduling and updating the state of progress of work; users can now focus on aspects of optimization which previously were only occasionally taken into consideration;
- 20% reduction in lead time;
- Reliability of delivery dates;
- Visibility of work in progress at the various stages of production.
Luigi Malinverno believes that the unique features of Preactor contributed to the success of the project and made the implementation go smoothly, without major difficulties.
Among these features were:
- Ability to customize to the specific business needs, with refinements in detail as and when required;
- Relative simplicity of the interface with the existing ERP system in the company, with reliable export and import of data;
- Easy to use even for users without special expertise or knowledge. Even in the absence of the main user of Preactor, scheduling can be done by other users without any impact on the organization and production processes.
In summary, Luigi Malinverno commented:
“Preactor has proved to be suitable for typical chemical companies’ manufacturing operating processes, where problems and constraints can be modelled beyond the pure capacity utilization of resources”.