Three ways Just-In-Time scheduling is transforming pharma operations

Bring speed, accuracy and deeper insights to manufacturing and lab schedules

By Rick Johnston PhD, Lisia Dias PhD
JIT Blog
Today, schedulers spend most of their time wrangling data from the shop floor. Manual processes for communicating schedule changes – emails, text messages and individual chats – require schedule owners to continuously tweak numbers and inputs. That’s fine if your schedule is just a few operators and pieces of equipment. But for larger facilities and more detailed schedules, the quantity of data involved renders this process obsolete.

Just-in-time (JIT) scheduling offers a better way.

Just-in-time scheduling uses machine learning and automated algorithms to constantly analyze real-time data feeds and interpret manufacturing data. The algorithms then re-schedule future activities on demand, automatically updating the schedule as relevant information becomes available.

It brings speed, accuracy, and deeper insights to manufacturing and lab schedules all with much less human effort. JIT technology will transform pharma scheduling in three significant ways.
  1. Reduces manual labor. Our SmartFactory Rx® Smart Scheduling JIT schedule cuts almost all the data chasing, cut-and-paste work, and basic analytics from the scheduling workflow. Once the platform is connected to the relevant data sources, it automatically collates the data where algorithms review it in real-time and incorporate it into the schedule. Each stakeholder group – manufacturing, QC lab, maintenance, supply chain – can link directly to the hub, creating a central source of information. Once the process is setup, intelligent algorithms enable predictions to be made based on the most up to date data and intelligence.
  2. Improves schedule accuracy. Because just-in-time scheduling platforms can continuously integrate and analyze many more sources of internal and external data, calculations can be based on more information to generate real-time information. For example, a delay in a particular manufacturing operation can be noticed early, and activities rescheduled in-shift. Using algorithms eliminates the need for human intervention for many basic scheduling tasks, reducing the chance of entry error.
  3. Schedules can be re-run and operationalized in seconds. The automation of data management means schedulers can provide updated projections as soon as new data is available. They can also model what-if scenarios, adjusting strategies to balance plant capacity and operator availability most effectively. This transforms the schedule into a responsive tool that can react in real-time to changing situations on the plant floor.
By eliminating the manual ‘grunt-work’ of day-to-day scheduling, planners are freed to spend their time on more strategic tasks, such as identifying the impact of schedule deviations on the campaign run or advising stakeholders of key risks to the schedule.

How can facilities start to see the benefits of just-in-time scheduling?

Implementing just-in-time scheduling isn’t as hard as it sounds. Schedulers don’t need to completely abandon manual methods and can ease the transition to JIT through incremental automation.

Many of the companies Applied Materials is working with have first added an advanced analytics layer such as “Smart Process” to detect the ‘start’ and ‘end’ points of different operations based on historian data. This can help indicate if particular events are running late and kick off a notification to schedulers to take a look at what’s going on.

A more sophisticated – but still incremental – approach is to begin with a ‘suggested schedule’ where the JIT smart scheduling platform automatically re-runs the schedule but requires confirmation from the scheduler to publish to the shop floor. Our Smart Scheduling solution is one example of a platform that gives schedulers the tools they need to implement a variety of incremental automations as part of their journey towards JIT manufacturing.

The rising pressure on planning teams to create more accurate and timely schedules from a growing flow of data means they can no longer afford delays. If companies want to improve schedule accuracy and make faster decisions based on better data, they need a more automated approach to the scheduling process.

Ready to learn more about how SmartFactory Rx® solutions can help address these questions?

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