Planning will always be a thorny issue. Questions like, how is the planning going? Am I adjusting it on time? What if this order experiences a delay? If I am sick, can my colleague take over my work? I could have created an even longer list of questions, but I think I’ve made my point; these are questions that you come across at most (manufacturing) companies. As an ERP supplier, I am often accused of ERP not being a planning package, which is actually rather strange. In essence, ERP is a calculator that, according to needs, works out both what has to happen to fulfil the purpose, taking into account the availability of materials, available capacity and a whole host of parameters by means of which planning, the warehouse, shipping, etc. are supplied on time, in order to be able to fulfil the final need. I totally understand that the perception of planning brings out the best in many people when they see a graphic planning board (Gantt chart). Colourful bars with information that can be moved about using the Drag & Drop feature. All of this in order to manually influence an existing schedule, for progress monitoring or event, something which we saw in the past at a car garage, a card index file of the order that had to be fulfilled. A list of jobs (i.e. a handful of cards) that were neatly inserted on the correct day of the week and/or time of the day for the right mechanic. In the past, these types of tools were offered separately, in addition to an ERP system. These packages were known as ‘Best of Breed‘! The trick was to, from MRP, interface the proposed requirements plan and orders with the planning package, in which the final detailed schedule could be created and, once a completed notification has been received, to interface this with the correct information. Mmmm … you often see that this planning tool has a close relationship with an MES system (Manufacturing Execution System), but I will write about that in a future blog, because you could write an entire book about MES. A fix for all problems The difficult thing about an interfaced package is, of course, always the amount of information that has to be interchanged. And is this information real-time? Do people who require information about the schedule have to log into the planning package? Or are they able to retrieve this from their ERP system in which they work every day? What about a sales staff member who wants to see how his urgent order is coming along. Today you see that increasingly more ERP systems have included the functionality of being able to plan graphically. In this case, the interface is no longer required and the information can be viewed real-time by all staff. Great step forwards! With this system, the link to the requisite material supplies or availability is available, whereas a stand-alone planning package would usually not take into account material constraints.