Solving Complex Production Schedule Problems

MOVING BEYOND TRADITIONAL SOLUTIONS

Existing commercial solutions for production and process scheduling focus on two basic questions: 1) When should a specific task be scheduled? and 2) What resources should be assigned to perform the task? In many cases, these questions can be answered by applying simple, rule-based heuristics, such as sequencing tasks by earliest due date, or by the length of their processing times. Although appealing for their simplicity and intuitive nature, these methods usually produce inferior results because they tend to ignore other key attributes of the tasks.

In more complex situations, optimization-based approaches can be used. These methods use mathematical programming techniques to find the optimal solution – sequence and assignment of tasks – to maximize or minimize some metric, like throughput or operating cost, respectively. While theoretically appealing, these methods only work well under very stable conditions, but require a great deal of expertise to adapt the method to changing conditions, and often take a very long time to solve. OptPro is a sophisticated production scheduling system that goes well beyond rule-based systems to enable optimal decision making through powerful algorithmic and analytical techniques.

In this paper, we first describe traditional techniques for analysts conducting production scheduling. Next, we introduce OptPro, state-of-the-art software for enabling optimization of complex production scheduling activities. We then detail use of this powerful new software via a real-world example using OptPro to optimally solve a liquid flow business problem involving multiple SKUs and significant complexity.

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