Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics has invested in ERP scheduling and planning software Access Orchestrate to automate their time sensitive planning and scheduling processes. Siemens required a solution that could automate and adhere to strict time requirements whilst updating and reporting in real-time to ensure staff have a live feed of scheduled and planned activities.
Although the concept is simple, planning and scheduling the manufacture of diagnostic beads can be likened to working on a three dimensional jigsaw. There are two related processes – first coating the beads with organic and non-organic substances and then dying them. The complications arise from competing demands for production and drying equipment, where timing is essential.
Batches are unable to wait between process steps or the batch will not meet its strict quality margins. To complicate the issue coating time is measured in days, specific machines are validated for only certain coatings, and organic coatings have a limited life, sometimes involving critical incubation times for enzymes. Scheduling the batches in the most efficient routing leaves no room for failure, or the batch could be lost.
Before implementing Access Orchestrate schedulers were spending between 20 and 30 hours a week compiling schedules for beads and their buffer stocks of coatings. The complexities involved imposed a week-and-a-half scheduling horizon, and obvious restrictions on flexibility.
On a continuous shift system as many as 50 different people working in separate rooms needed access to the schedules, and these were communicated by email and displayed on a large central whiteboard. Inevitably, this led to the possibility of multiple versions of the schedule on the shop floor, deviations to the schedule, missed tracks and considerable scope for human error.
Since the implementation the time taken in scheduling has been cut by 66%, representing a saving of £20,000 a year. More importantly it has relieved key staff from demanding mechanical tasks, allowing them to devote more time to other key operations.
Multiple versions of the schedule have been eliminated, with a single version of Access Orchestrate displayed on an interactive SMART board. It displays a rolling Gantt chart in real-time, automatically scrolling as time progresses, which means it can be left running on-screen without any operator intervention.
Communications have been streamlined and the potential for errors such as; shop floor staff working with outdated information, missed tasks and lost products has been removed. Lost product due to unviability of critical manufacturing resources has been cut saving £40,000 a year.
Incubation times can now be monitored in real-time improving the quality of information displayed. Where previously batches had to be planned a week ahead and changes simply weren’t feasible because of the complexity of working with spreadsheets, changes can now be implemented within 24 hours.