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Preactor & Laminate Manufacture
December 2005

Background
Nevamar is a leading North American manufacturer of high quality decorative laminates.  Its products are found in a wide variety of installations, including airports, offices, bowling alleys, sports stadiums, retail stores, fast food restaurants, hospitals, homes and schools.

A new management team recently began to modernize the company. A key objective was to improve customer service and consolidate operations.

The Problem
As part of the Company’s modernization program, Nevamar sought to improve their information systems.  A key opportunity for improvement was to replace the Company’s legacy press scheduling system which had been developed nearly 40 years ago. For the last 20 years the legacy system had been running on an HP3000 and was no longer flexible enough to meet the changing demands of their business.

In the late nineties much of the HP3000 system was replaced by a new ERP system which had been hastily implemented to address potential millennium issues

Although it had been designed specifically for the laminate industry, the HP3000-based scheduling system was manually intensive and inflexible. The only way that the scheduler could keep up with the daily workload was to start each day at 3:00AM.  Orders were grouped into press loads days and weeks in advance of their press date and once an order had been grouped it was difficult to make changes. 

The Solution
Nevamar investigated several options for replacing its press scheduling system, including several leading ERP and scheduling packages and the possibility of developing a custom solution.  An earlier effort to implement an APS system had failed several years prior, so the team was eager to avoid the mistakes of the past.  The Company also wanted a solution that would be compatible with its ERP system. 

After considerable research, Suncoast Scheduling Technologies (SST), a Florida-based company was selected because they had already gained considerable recognition for the work it had successfully completed with a printed circuit board laminator in New Hampshire.  The fact that SST had a documented, successful track record when it came to resolving the complex issues required to  build a Press scheduling system was the critical to the final decision.

Nevamar's Chief Information Officer, explained that “scheduling the presses is the major constraint in planning plant operations.  The press schedule is based on a complex set of rules that determine which products can be mixed in the same press load. The variables include attributes such as the sheet size, finish, construction, grade, product type, press constraints and customer-specific requirements.”

The work involved a series of detailed meetings with the engineering staff to gain a full understanding of the real world constraints. SST were able to distill the engineering data from a matrix table containing about 165,000 lines into a 220 line table called the Recipe File. SST then worked very closely with the schedulers to make sure that the system addressed a number of critically important requirements.

SST’s laminate scheduling solution was built with Preactor’s flexible Advanced Planning and Scheduling software.  It includes four modules: 

  1. The Netting Engine Module adds functionality that is required for the optimization of cut-to-size orders and the netting of orders against available finished goods inventory. In addition it handles the integration with the Company’s ERP system and the printing of shop floor paper.
  2. The Scheduling Module allows the schedulers to automate the process of grouping orders into specific press loads, specific openings and scheduling them.
  3. The PLE Module (Press Load Editor) provides the scheduler with a powerful graphical user interface which allows fine tuning of the schedule by splitting, pulling forward and dragging orders from one press load to another.
  4. The Reporting Module makes all the scheduling data available in Microsoft Access so that users can analyze the data by quickly and easily creating their own reports, queries and graphs.

Once implemented the new scheduling system was quickly synchronized with customer demand so that changes and cancellations to customer orders can be immediately passed through to the schedule.

The Conclusion
Ninety days after implementation, the system is showing significant results.  Late orders have been reduced by more than 97%; scrap rates are down, in part due to improved press efficiencies. Any new or change orders immediately impact the scheduling system. The CIO adds that “The new system has significantly reduced the routine part of scheduling, enabling our schedulers to concentrate on customer service and the handful of problems that occur each day.  Building the scheduler’s knowledge into the system provides additional benefits such as improving the consistency of schedules while reducing the time it takes to train a new scheduler”.

Implementing the new scheduling technology has highlighted a number of additional improvement opportunities that will further enhance customer service and reduce cost.  These opportunities will be addressed in the coming months as part of the Company’s overall improvement initiative. 

The CIO adds that the goal is to continue to work and find ways to provide better, faster and more accurate information to our customers”. He concluded that SST told us what we needed to do, they told us what they needed to do and they delivered on all of their promises.  He feels strongly that that their knowledge of the Preactor system and attention to detail at every step of the way is what enabled the company to successfully implement the system..

Interestingly enough the scheduler now comes to work at the same time as everybody else.