Forward Scheduling: What is it and how does it differ from backwards scheduling?

Simio is a forward scheduling simulation engine.  We do not support backwards scheduling.  We have found the backwards scheduling approach fails to represent reality, thus generating an infeasible plan that is unhelpful to planners.  Many of our customers have learned this lesson the hard way. 

The underlying principle of forward scheduling is feasibility first.  A schedule is built looking forwards considering all the constraints and conditions of the system (e.g., resource availability, inventory levels, work in progress, etc.).  The schedule is optimized in run time while only considering the set of feasible choices available at that time.  Decisions are made according to user specified dispatching rules (the same as backwards scheduling).  The output is a detailed schedule that reflects what is possible and tells the planner how to achieve it.  As in real life, a planner can only choose when to start an operation.  Completion date is an outcome, not a user specified input.

The most salient technical difference between the two approaches is material availability (both raw and intermediate manufactured materials).  A forward-looking schedule makes no assumptions.  If materials are available, a finished good can be produced.  Otherwise, it cannot.  If the materials must be ordered or manufactured, the system will order them or manufacture them before the finished good can start.  A backwards schedule plans the last operation first, assuming that materials will be available (*we have yet to find an environment where future inventory can be accurately forecast).  If the materials must be produced or purchased, it will try to schedule or order them prior, hoping that the start date isn’t yesterday.  If the clock is wound backwards from due date all the way to present time, the resulting schedule shows the planner what their current stockpile and on-order inventory would have to be to execute the idealized plan.  It does not tell the planner what they could do with their actual stockpile and on-order inventory. 

Next consider a situation where demand exceeds plant capacity (this is reality for most of our customers).  The plant cannot produce everything that the planner wants.  The planner must choose amongst the alternatives and face the tradeoffs.  Forward scheduling deals with this situation by continuing to schedule into the future, past the due date, showing the planner which orders will be late.  By adjusting the dispatching rules, priorities, and the release dates, the planner can improve the schedule until they reach a satisfactory alternative.  Every alternative is a valid choice and feasible for execution.  Backwards scheduling deals with this situation by continuing to schedule into the past, showing the planner which orders should have been produced yesterday.  The planner must tweak and adjust dispatching rules and due dates until finding a feasible alternative.  In our experience, the planner can make the best decision by comparing multiple feasible plans, rather than searching for a single one.

Any complete scheduling solution must also be capable of rescheduling.  Rescheduling can be triggered by any number of random events that occur daily.  In rescheduling, the output must respect work in progress.  Forward scheduling loads WIP first, making the resource unavailable until the WIP is complete.  Backwards scheduling loads WIP last, if at all.  Imagine building a weekly schedule backwards in time, hoping that the “ending” point exactly equals current plant WIP.  The result is often infeasible.

In terms of feasibility, the advantages of forward scheduling are clear.  But we also get questions about optimization, particularly around JIT delivery.  A quick Google search on forward scheduling reveals literature and blog posts that describe forward scheduling “As early as possible” (meaning a forward schedule starts an operation as soon as a resource is available, regardless of when the order is due).  This is false.  Forward scheduling manages the inventory of finished goods the same way the plant does.  A planner specifies a release date as a function of due date (or in some cases specifies individual release dates for each order).  In forward scheduling, no order is started prior to release date.  The power of this approach is experimentation.  Changing lead time is as easy as typing in a different integer and rescheduling.  As above, the result is a different feasible alternative which makes the tradeoff transparent.  Shorter lead times minimize inventory of finished goods but increase late deliveries and vice versa.  We have found many customers focus on short lead times based on financial goals rather than operational goals.  Inventory ties up cash.  Typically, the decision to focus on cash is made without quantifying the tradeoff.  We provide decision makers with clear cut differences between operational strategies so that they can choose based on complete information.

Forward scheduling is reality.  It properly represents material flows and constraints, plant capacity, and work in progress.  It manages the plant the same way a planner does.  Accordingly, it generates sets of feasible alternatives that quantify tradeoffs for planners and executive decision makers alike.  It answers the question “What should the plant do next?” as opposed to “What should the plant have done before?”  We’ve found the feasibility first approach is the most helpful to a planner and therefore the most valuable to a business.

Top Trends in Simulation and Digital Twins Technology for 2020

Digital Twins refers to the digital representations of people, processes, and things. It is used to analyze operations and receive insight into complex processes. As 2019 comes to an end, the need to define digital twin technology still exists and hopefully by this time next year, its growth and popularity will make this need obsolete…

In 2018, digital twins were included as a top technology trend by the big names covering the tech industry. According to Orbis research, the digital twin market is expected to grow by 35% within a 5-year time frame and 2020 is right in the middle of this period. But before highlighting the trends to expect in 2020, it is only right to do a recap of the year so far. This is to note if earlier predictions have come to pass before mapping the future.

In terms of popularity, coverage of the digital twins is definitely on the right track as continuous studies by Gartner and other publications show. Today, many professionals across the technical and non-technical divide understand the digital twin concept and how it can be used to drive business processes and concepts. This is why many industries are currently integrating digital twins to bolster business insight and understand data.

The biggest adopters of digital twin technology in the geographical sense remains North America. Enterprises within the US and Canada currently leads the way in terms of adopting digital twin technology. North America accounts for approximately 59% of the digital twin market and economy while Europe and the Asian pacific comes next.

The very nature of the digital twin and simulation, as well as, the solutions they provide makes them attractive business tools for the manufacturing industry and this fact is backed up by data. The manufacturing industry’s affinity to digital twins is powered by Industry 4.0 and the varied ongoing processes that occur within shop floors. The use of smart edge devices, equipment, robots, AI, and automation also fits nicely into the digital twin concept thus making it attractive to manufacturers.

In 2019, manufacturers account for approximately 36% of the digital twin market. Other industries such as the energy and power industry, Aerospace, Automobile and Oil & Gas complete the top five industries who make use of the digital twin to enhance operations. Analyzing this trend highlights the fact that digital twins are important to simplifying complex processes where hundreds or thousands of variables and relationships are needed to successfully accomplish set tasks.

Is the Digital Twin for Only Production-based Industries?

Although the Oil & Gas industry, as well as, the energy and power sector are not tagged as manufacturing industries, a case can be made for it. Therefore, many may assume or wonder if digital twin technology is only useful within production-based industries where discrete or process manufacturing takes place. And the answer is No.

The digital twin is also being used in other industry verticals such as the hospitality industry and in restaurants. One example is the use of Simio by CKE Holdings Inc. to ease workloads in its Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s restaurants. The Digital twin is also being used to support discrete event simulations in hotels, real-estate, and tolling facilities.

The use of interconnected devices and automation within service and hospitality businesses are the driving forces behind the adoption of digital twin within a variety of industries. And the coming year is expected to witness continuous growth as more industries and professionals understand what the digital twin brings to the table.

Top 5 Trends for the Digital Twins and Simulation Technology for 2020

Interrelated Technologies will Boost Adoption Rate – The growth and maturity of interrelated technologies such as 3D printing, metal printing, and mapping will play a part in accelerating the adoption rate of digital twins in 2020. This is because of the need to monitor and consistently improve these technologies and the systems that drive them.

Using 3D printing as an example, many manufacturing outfits are currently making use of 3D printing clusters to speed up their production requirements. 3D printing clusters or farms refers to facilities where hundreds of 3D printers function simultaneously to manufacture physical items. Although these 3D printing clusters have dedicated software for managing the printing process, material delivery, scheduling, and managing the entire supply chain within these facilities are handled manually.

Digital twin solutions can eliminate the manual management and handling process in 3D printing farms to great effect. If properly executed, a digital twin of a large scale 3D printing cluster will provide a data-driven approach to optimize supply, scheduling and the manufacturing process. This will reduce expenditure including the energy expended in 3D printing cluster facilities.

Industry 4.0 will Continue to Drive Adoption – The growth in Industry 4.0 and the devices, as well as, communication channels driving the smart factory is expected to increase the adoption of digital twin solutions. In 2019, Industry 4.0 witnessed the creation of new standards from the OPC Foundation that supports the collection of data from the deepest corners of brownfield facilities. These data were collected from dumb equipment with legacy technologies using smart edge and embedded devices.

The success of this approach, means that digital twin technology can now integrate the data collected from dumb or legacy equipment when developing digital representations. This increases the accuracy levels of the representations thereby enhancing simulation results and scheduling plans. Thus, increasingly accurate digital twin ecosystems and results will create more use cases that will drive the adoption of digital twins in 2020.

IoT and IIoT to Drive Digital Twin Adoption Rate – The move to more interconnected environments across both manufacturing and service-based industries also have roles to play in 2020. As stated earlier, Industry 4.0 will enhance the adoption of digital twin technologies and this also true for the industrial internet of things (IIoT). The widespread adoption of IoT and IIoT devices or equipment have created a race to develop the best management solution to monitor interconnected activities.

This creates an avenue which digital twin service providers are currently taking advantage of and will continue to do so in 2020. The ability of the digital twin to create digital representations of IIoT devices and also integrate the data they produce creates multiple use cases enterprises will explore in the coming years. These use cases include running simulations in complex interconnected facilities to produce accurate results or to access processes that involve the use of IIoT technologies.

Digital Twin for Cybersecurity Challenges – With every passing decade, the cybersecurity challenges enterprises face keeps changing. The millennium brought Trojan horses and other viruses which were effectively stopped with anti-virus software apps and by 2010, attackers pivoted to using phishing attacks and malware. Today, ransomware, spyware, DDoS, and business email compromise attacks have become the new challenges enterprises face. Thus highlighting the ever-changing landscape of cyber threats.

To cater to these threats and attacks, digital twin solutions will be enlisted by enterprises in 2020. In this scenario, the digital twin will be used as a penetration testing tool to simulate the effects of successful data breaches or ransomware to an organizations business processes. Within the digital twin environment, attacks to core equipment can be simulated and the result will be a response pattern that ensures the crippled equipment does not lead to extended downtime.

2020 will also be expected to witness an increase in the cybersecurity threats facing cloud-based digital twin solutions. Thus, more secure communication protocols and standards regulating data use will be developed to protect enterprises making use of digital twin technology. This means developers and service providers will have an increased role to play in securing digital twin environments.

Simulation-based Scheduling – The drive to deliver real-time scheduling is expected to continue in 2020 as enterprises seek more accuracy with managing business process. The need for real-time scheduling is also driven by how enterprises intend to apply simulation and digital twin tools. An example includes the need to make business decisions in real-time, handle unforeseen occurrences such as machine downtime, and reschedule operations.

These challenges fall into the category of issues discrete event simulation (DES) software can handle. Once the required data is accessible, DES and digital twin applications can conduct simulations in real-time and provide accurate solutions to dealing with changing scenarios also in real-time. This will drastically reduce downtime and enhance performance within facilities and warehouses.

Although some DES software offers real-time simulation scheduling, many are still process-based scheduling applications and this is set to change in 2020.

Quantum Computing – If real-time simulation, scheduling, and process management is to be achieved, then digital twin solutions must take advantage of the speed, scalability, and high-performance quantum computing offers. Today, digital twin solutions currently leverage the cloud to provide stable and scalable services to enterprises and only a few integrate the use of high-performing computers to enhance or manage really large workloads.

In 2020, further strides will be made to speed up simulations within digital twin environments using high-performing computers. The success of this initiative will speed up real-time scheduling and complex process management for the foreseeable future.

Planning for 2020…

The benefits of the digital twin have played an important role in ensuring its adoption across diverse industries and the expected trends of 2020 will continue the increased adoption rate that came with 2019. Although digital twin solutions have become more interactive and intuitive to use, enterprises still require the assistance of experienced professionals to get the best out of their digital twin environment and this is where Simio can help.

IT managers, cybersecurity experts, and project managers can take advantage of the Simio Fundamentals Course to learn more about simulation and Digital Twin technology including its application in real-life scenarios.

How to Sell the Idea of Digital Twin to Your Manager

The business world as we know it is changing. Never have there been so many emerging technologies, models, and business concepts competing for the attention of the business community. Today, we have cloud computing services, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Automation, Blockchains, and the Digital Twin providing timely business insights for enterprises. This is why the internet and even physical business entities have hundreds of salesmen and women trooping in and out of your private space. Selling the ‘next best thing’ in technology like pharmaceuticals marketers do, to CTOs, CIOs, and other decision-makers.

 In this whirlwind of changing activities and millions of ads advertising the best technology solutions is Digital Twin technology. For those who know the benefits of the Digital Twin and its ability to enhance every aspect of an enterprise’s operation, the challenge of convincing management to take a chance with it remains. This leaves one with the question of what are the best techniques to sell the idea of integrating Digital Twin technology to the boss? As with most sales challenges, the traditional answer generally involves listing its value-added propositions and outlining the returns to be made investing in the technology.

Although the traditional answer to selling new ideas to management remains efficient, the increased competition among cutting edge tech services means more selling points are needed. Thus, to effectively answer the question ‘how do I sell the idea of Digital Twin technology to management’, here are some new and timely tips to consider.

5 Tips for Selling the Idea of Integrating Digital Twin Technology to Decision-makers

As a sales representative, business development, or system integrator staff/employee who is part of a team, the successful introduction of new technology solutions depends on your approach. This is because you will serve as the driving force behind ensuring the implementation of Digital Twin technology improves the company’s operational processes to deliver optimal services to customers. The tips for selling the idea of Digital Twin Technology include:

Making Your Case with Data – The task of convincing those who control the money and decide what investments are to be made is not for the faint-hearted. You must come prepared and one of the ways to prepare for every question that may come your way is having the required data in place that answers the most important questions. According to a Mckinsey report, integrating data analytics in the right place or in your sales pitch is one way to convince skeptics on the importance of Digital Twin technology. The data to be included must be relevant to the situation or scenario you intend to create when selling Digital Twin Technology. To simplify your search for adequate information, here are some of the data you will need:

  • To answer the question of the adoption rate and how the competition intends to use Digital Twin technology to enhance business operations, the IDC data on adoption can help. The IDC forecasts that 40% of IoT platform vendors and 70% of manufacturers will be making use of Digital Twin technology by 2022.
  • If the question of how digital twin technology can help increase the revenue of the business, data from the Juniper Research can help you answer the question. According to the research, the use of Digital Twin technology has helped enterprises increase their revenue by 25 to 35%. This is due to the ease in which business insights can be gotten from complex processes and the predictive analytical features of Digital Twin technologies.

Armed with this information, your sale pitch will highlight the importance of staying ahead of the competition by integrating Digital Twin technology to simplify complex processes and difficult business decisions. It can also be applied to drive development and predict future scenarios in a wide variety of industries including manufacturing, architecture, construction, technology, engineering, and healthcare industries.

Make Use of Case Study – With your data in place, the next step to convincing decision-makers in your organization is through the provision of confirmable case studies on how Digital Twin technology can help. This is where a little personal effort comes into play if interested in creating personalized case studies for stakeholders to scrutinize. You can find applicable case studies that highlight how Digital Twin technology has been applied and is still been applied by your competitors here:

  • You can find case studies on the application of Digital Twin technology in the aviation industry, automotive industry, manufacturing, healthcare, mining, and engineering at Simio’s resource center. The case studies here are practical examples that can be integrated into your presentation when making your sales pitch.
  • If you are certain a pitch with case studies may not be enough, then more effort is needed from your end. This effort involves the design of a Digital Twin of a phase of your facilities operations to showcase the benefits of a digital model of physical systems where events can be simulated. Many Digital Twin technology providers offer free trials which can be used to accomplish this task. You can make a request for a Simio Demo to quickly kick start the process of designing a Digital Twin.
  • Provide specific answers to your enterprise or the enterprise’s pain points. Once again, although case studies may be customized to show how Digital Twin technology alleviate business challenges, creating a functional model will do more to pass the message across.

So, the second tip here is making use of case studies to address exactly how Digital Twin technology can be used to eliminate specific challenges an enterprise experiences. The efficient use of case studies is one of the quickest ways to get the ball rolling when trying to sell Digital Twin solutions to the decision-makers in your organization.  

Showcase the ROI – It is a well-known fact that one of the most publicized benefits of Digital Twin technology is the returns it offers enterprises who choose to invest in it. Also, your manager, as well as, stakeholders would definitely expect a breakdown of how much the investment will cost and the returns to expect. It is important to have this in mind because, finances are generally the deciding factor that determines if a positive decision will be made.

According to research by High Tech Software Cluster, the threshold for integrating Digital Twin technology for enterprises costs approximately €50, 000 ($55,000). The study goes on to show that to create digital twin solutions for more complex systems may cost approximately €150, 000 or $165,000. As stated earlier, the returns on this investment can be as much as 35% of the total cost needed to create a Digital Twin. In some cases, returns of approximately 50% have also been reported which highlights the financial leverage Digital Twin technology offers enterprises.

As you probably know, approximations are not enough to sway managers and other decision-makers. This means more exact figures that showcase the total cost of owning a Digital Twin of complex process is needed to successfully sell the idea to management. Calculating the total cost of ownership can be done using an estimate calculator. The estimate calculator is capable of calculating the cost of purchasing the necessary hardware, software packages, energy costs, and other costs associated with owning Digital Twin technologies.

It is also important to highlight any supporting technologies that will be needed for data collection if an accurate Digital Twin is to be developed. These technologies may include embedded systems in manufacturing equipment, IoT devices, cloud computing services to scale simulations, and augmented reality devices. These complementary technologies and services may also add to the bottom line of designing a functional Digital Twin environment of complex systems. Thus, using the estimate calculator to highlight the ROI of creating a Digital Twin is one of the major steps that must be taken to convince management about the need for a Digital Twin.

Ask the Right Questions – During strategy sessions, some push backs are expected and this will definitely be the case when selling the idea of a Digital Twin to enhance business operations. This push back should be expected even after using data to answer questions, creating case studies or applicable scenarios, and defining the return on the investment made. When the expected push back occurs, the best way to understand how management thinks and the challenges they foresee is by asking questions. Asking the right questions provides you with the foundation needed to provide the answers needed to convert non-believers into believers.

The questions to ask are varied and should be determined by the level of skepticism shown by particular decision-makers. Some of the questions you must ask to assess the mindset of your superiors include:

  • Do you need more information to make a decision and what information do you need? The purpose of asking this question is to have an idea about what your audience or manager is thinking. Remember that IT managers are notoriously skeptical about new technology therefore, having an understanding of the prejudices management has against Digital Twin technology is important.
  • I know you love the way things are going, but would you be interested in a 6-month trial? If the feedback you get from the manager and decision-makers is negative due to their satisfaction with how things are within the company, this question might help break the ice. Satisfaction with the present condition of things can dampen the enthusiasm for Digital Twin technology. But pushing for a trial could be the turning point that turns ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.
  • If it helps you surpass your personal targets will you try it? It may come as a surprise to you that managers think more about self-preservation than the success of a business. This is one reason why your manager may be resistant to change. Thus, making your questions a bit personal and putting the manager’s self-interest first may be the strategy that gets him/her to experiment with Digital Twin technology.

These questions should be asked without sounding too pushy to your manager and other decision-makers. This is because a pushy attitude could be interpreted as a desperate attempt to make some money for yourself on the side.

Associate the Integration of Digital Twin with Achieving Business Goals – Finally, the ace in your back pocket should be tying the integration of Digital Twin technology to the ideology of the enterprise. This includes highlighting how Digital Twin can be used to realize the business’s mission statement or meet certain key performance index (KPIs). With the answers to the questions asked above, accomplishing this task should be a bit easier than the first steps of selling the idea to management.

Your ability to showcase the benefits of Digital Twin technology and how it meets your company’s culture or KPIs is determined by your knowledge about the transformative powers of the technology. To accomplish this, a lot of research is needed to know more about how this emerging technology can be applied to your business case. Once again, you can turn to the information highlighted in these tips to refine your pitch to resell the idea of integrating Digital Twin technology to your manager. For more information, you can also choose to attend conferences centered around the adoption of Digital Twin technology in your industry.

The Benefits of Digital Twin Technologies is Worth the Extra Effort

Digital Twin technologies create value in diverse ways that can ease the effort expended doing your job. Some of the more important benefits include:

  • Descriptive Values – The ability to visualize the status of an asset in real-time via its Digital Twin is valuable when those assets or facilities are either remote, complex, or dangerous. In plants and other facilities, a Digital Twin makes information easily accessible for interpretation and to make business decisions.
  • Diagnostic and Standardization Value – In facilities where hundreds of variables are involved with production, Digital Twin technology can be used to stabilize these variables, pinpoint the root cause of problems, and leverage analytics to standardize complex systems.
  • Predictive Value – Industry-leading enterprises like General Electric have used Digital Twin technologies to improve efficiency and the output of plants. This was accomplished using a Digital Twin to propose solutions that can lead to customer satisfaction and profitability.

You can learn more about getting started with Digital Twin technology in your facilities, plants, and business by speaking to a Simio engineer today.

Scheduling in the Industry 4.0

Today started badly.

As soon as I hopped into my car, the GPS system was flashing red to show queues of stationary traffic on my regular route to the office. Thankfully, the alternative offered allowed me to arrive on time and keep my scheduled appointments.

In the same way as a GPS combines live traffic data with an accurate map of the city, Simio Software connects real time data sources with a modeled production situation. Just like a GPS, Simio can also impose rules, make decisions, schedule and reschedule.

The major difference is in the scale.

Simio Simulation and Scheduling Software can model entire factories, holding huge quantities of detailed data about each resource, component and material. It leverages big data analysis to run thousands of permutations of scenarios, finding the optimum outcomes for specific circumstances. Lightning fast, it can detect and respond to changes with suggestions that will keep everything flowing in the best possible way.

Thank goodness for Simio, because Industry 4.0 is here.

Smart Factories employ fully integrated and connected equipment and people, each providing real time feedback about their state. Data is constantly collected on each product component, for process monitoring and control. Every aspect of the entire operation is managed through its associated specifications and status data. This large, constant stream of information coming from a known factory configuration can be received, stored, processed and reported upon by the powerful Simio software.

With Industry 4.0, nothing is left to chance. Everything is monitored and optimized, and performance is predicted, measured, improved and adapted on an ongoing basis. Management of so many interconnected components requires a scheduling system that is specifically designed to operate in this dynamic data environment. Simio Production Scheduling Software can be relied upon to provide the integrated solution for enabling technology in the Smart Factories of the future.

We are already seeing a rise in robotics and the increasing digitalization of the manufacturing industry under the effects of Industry 4.0. Soon all components of the factory model will be interconnected, just like my future driverless car that will communicate directly with my GPS to take the best route using current traffic information.

All I will have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.