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The application of AI occurred on two different processes:

1.        The configuring of an item

2.        The planning and scheduling process.

The application of AI to configuring an item is called the bill of material (BOM) configurator. The second application was called the sales order entry configurator. Both support the modular bill of material approach and significantly reduce the number of end items that must be managed. A configurator typically offers, in a "dia­logue" between the engineer or order entry person or customer and the configurator, a set of choices to the user, choices that can only result in a valid, logical, and workable configuration. When the session is complete, a unique BOM is created by the system. There are a num­ber of innovative configurator designs available in the marketplace.

Another application is in the planning and schedul­ing processes. These AI based systems are called ad­vanced planning systems (APS). An APS considers multiple constraints during a planning session. Con­straints such as the traditional supply/demand balanc­ing, capacity planning, inventory investment strategy, customer services objectives, etc. Time measurements are more precise in an APS; often the scheduling is done in time increments as small as seconds

There are a number of design permutations with the APS approach. Some APS approaches focus on planning, some on scheduling, and some claim to do both plan­ning and scheduling. In addition, there is great diver­sity on the AI techniques used within the APS systems available. Most of the techniques used require a solid engineering and advanced mathematical understanding and are beyond comprehension for many resource man­agement professionals, the author included.

The main advantages of APS are in shortening the planning and scheduling processes, consistency in plan­ning policy and decision-making, and the ability to quickly explore alternatives. Figure 3 graphically high­lights APS within the extended ERP model.


The convergence of the virtual enterprise model with the need to compete on time, along with the emergence of business process reengineering as a viable manage­ment tool, plus the continuous drive toward the lean enterprise have put the spotlight on the administrative processes, particularly the non-value-added processes. Workflow messaging technology is proven and inte­grates the heretofore informal (administrative) processes into the formal planning and control framework of ERP. Bottlenecks are now not only thought of as an issue within the factory but of those supporting factory op­erations. Workflow is an enabler of business process re-engineering, bringing administration and support staff into a condition of accountability, providing visibility into the enterprise's dynamics, reducing non-value-added costs, and perhaps most importantly creating high velocity within the enterprise. Workflow in the hands of a capable industrial engineer is a potent weapon.

To Be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 13


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