How to use effective sequencing to avoid supply chain bottlenecks

Nov. 8, 2021
The manufacturer achieved the strategic goal of high sequence stability with the simultaneous requirement to avoid violations.

By Shay Sidner, flexis North America chief project officer and business product owner APS Solutions

No one can reliably predict a container ship running aground in the Suez Canal, hundred-year floods occurring every five years, or a pandemic that wreaks havoc on the global supply chain. Regardless of emerging situations, manufacturers are challenged to avoid any interruption in production output.

Thankfully, effective sequencing can provide confidence in the ability to accurately predict the schedule of deliverables.

Consider the key features of a sequencing solution:

·       Formation of optimized sequences on the assembly line and in the supply and removal trades

·       Implementation of a consistent “pearl chain” concept to optimize efficiency

·       Uniform distribution of assembly work

·       Allows smoothing the assembly times of a station or a section of a conveyor

·       Support of manual rescheduling through system-side functions

·       The visualization of rule violations supports decision-making

There are many advantages of formalizing the sequencing process.

·       Avoidance of critical situations or bottlenecks

·       Adaptable planning module

·       Possibility to choose a selection of standard rules that can be adapted and configured by the planner to adjust to new conditions

·       Lean production process through stable processes

·       Customers can adapt process sequences to their unique, individual requirements

·       Enables archiving of planning and process know-how in an understandable form

Adopting intelligently designed sequencing processes has resulted in the reduction of rework by 30-50%, creating high sequence stability of up to 100% and increasing throughput from 5-20%.

Consider this use case: one of the largest global truck manufacturers utilizes the basic principles of program management based on the "From Plan to Pull" process. They develop a realistic interpretation of "market service" program fixings per their decision calendar. They level changes with minimum lead times and vehicle reprioritizations when the order book is complete only in direct exchange with other orders—large-scale rolling through is not permitted. They establish that decisions on high-priority orders from sales is ultimately up to the production team.

Optimal filling of the pearl chain in this manner is essential for a well-performing manufacturing process. The chain begins with filling the orders (converting the sales-side order backlog into assembly orders).

The pearl-chain logic in production is essential for optimal order processing in the production area: it maps the production sequence both for complete vehicles (trucks, buses) and for the associated components (axles, cabs, engines, etc.).

The pearl chain determines the location and the sequence of orders. A reference-sequencing solution is designed to ensure the optimal sequencing of orders with maximum flexibility in a networked production system to map final assembly and component production.

To create the ideal model mix production line, manufacturers must ensure:

  1. Optimal customer orientation by taking into account the customer pearl chain (e.g., truck assembly)
  2. Consideration of local criteria to obtain an optimum solution adapted to the prevailing conditions in each case

A solution like this implemented a standard software oriented to customer processes with an easy-to-use interface. The solution creates a high level of transparency and allows a great deal of flexibility in the rule-set configuration; there are few limitations in the rule definition. Rule violations are presented in an online graphical display for appropriate decision-making. Sequencing results can be simulated for checking the supply situation in case of plan changes.

The result: Nearly 100% sequence stability

The pearl chain can only be used for logistical purposes if it can be kept stable: to achieve the required level of stability, the booking discipline of the employees is critical. At the global truck facilities described earlier, sequencing is recognized as a valuable contributor to its efficiency and is accepted across all divisions.

Consistent reporting of sequence stability and violations helps ensure that critical decisions are made quickly because the effects are immediately transparent. For example, a malus system has been introduced for suppliers, which assigns a penalty for violations and makes the effects of their actions apparent.  

The truck manufacturer achieved the strategic goal of high sequence stability with the simultaneous requirement to avoid violations at all costs with this solution and its integration into its internal production processes.

It took some time until the pearl chain was stable enough to provide the basis for further processes and optimization. However, the investment has paid off several times, and the company continues to reap benefits by integrating this superior sequencing program.

No company can anticipate all of the production challenges that await it, as the current pandemic has shown. However, adequate planning, an awareness of the situation as it develops, and the ability to flexibly respond to emerging and unanticipated challenges can mean the difference in meeting your customers' expectations or disappointing them.

A well-designed, strategic sequencing solution can help mitigate those risks and keep production targets within reach—even in the most challenging situations.