Production Scheduling Approaches

Read these sections, which highlight key problems in production scheduling. How can job sequencing and priority rules help to alleviate the key problems? Can you identify the different rules that affect job sequencing and priority rules in operations management?

1. Introduction

Scheduling is essentially the short-term execution plan of a production planning model. Production scheduling consists of the activities performed in a manufacturing company in order to manage and control the execution of a production process. A schedule is an assignment problem that describes into details (in terms of minutes or seconds) which activities must be performed and how the factory's resources should be utilized to satisfy the plan. Detailed scheduling is essentially the problem of allocating machines to competing jobs over time, subject to the constraints. Each work center can process one job at a time and each machine can handle at most one task at a time. A scheduling problem, typically, assumes a fixed number of jobs and each job has its own parameters (i.e., tasks, the necessary sequential constraints, the time estimates for each operation and the required resources, no cancellations). All scheduling approaches require some estimate of how long it takes to perform the work. Scheduling affects, and is affected by, the shop floor organization. All scheduling changes can be projected over time enabling the identification and analysis of starting time, completion times, idle time of resources, lateness, etc.

A right scheduling plan can drive the forecast to anticipate completion date for each released part and to provide data for deciding what to work on next. Questions about "Can we do it?" and/or "How are we doing?" presume the existence of approaches for optimisation. The aim of a scheduling study is, in general, to perform the tasks in order to comply with priority rules and to respond to strategy. An optimal short-term production planning model aims at gaining time and saving opportunities. It starts from the execution orders and it tries to allocate, in the best possible way, the production of the different items to the facilities. A good schedule starts from planning and springs from respecting resource conflicts, managing the release of jobs to a shop, and optimizing completion time of all jobs. It defines the starting time of each task and determines whatever and how delivery promises can be met. The minimization of one or more objectives has to be accomplished (e.g., the number of jobs that are shipped late, the minimization set up costs, the maximum completion time of jobs, maximization of throughput, etc.). Criteria could be ranked from applying simple rules to determine which job has to be processed next at which work-centre (i.e., dispatching) or to the use of advanced optimizing methods that try to maximize the performance of the given environment. Fortunately many of these objectives are mutually supportive (e.g., reducing manufacturing lead time reduces work in process and increases probability to meeting due dates). To identify the exact sequence among a plethora of possible combinations, the final schedule needs to apply rules in order to quantify urgency of each order (e.g., assigned order's due date - defined as global exploited strategy; amount of processing that each order requires - generally the basis of a local visibility strategy). It's up to operations management to optimize the use of limited resources. Rules combined into heuristic

The etymology of the word heuristic derives from a Greek word heurìsco (єΰρισκω) - it means "to find"- and is considered the art of discovering new strategy rules to solve problems. Heuristics aims at a solution that is "good enough" in a computing time that is "small enough".

approaches and, more in general, in upper level multi-objective methodologies (i.e., meta-heuristics), The term metaheuristc originates from union of prefix meta (μєτα) - it means "behind, in the sense upper level methodology" – and word heuristic - it means "to find". Metaheuristcs' search methods can be defined as upper level general methodologies guiding strategies in designing heuristics to obtain optimisation in problems, become the only methods for scheduling when dimension and/or complexity of the problem is outstanding. In the past few years, metaheuristics have received much attention from the hard optimization community as a powerful tool, since they have been demonstrating very promising results from experimentation and practices in many engineering areas. Therefore, many recent researches on scheduling problems focused on these techniques. Mathematical analyses of metaheuristics have been presented in literature.

This research examines the main characteristics of the most promising meta-heuristic approaches for the general process of a Job Shop Scheduling Problems (i.e., JSSP). Being a NP complete and highly constrained problem, the resolution of the JSSP is recognized as a key point for the factory optimization process. The chapter examines the soundness and key contributions of the 7 meta-heuristics (i.e., Genetics Approaches, Ants Colony Optimization, Bees Algorithm, Electromagnetic Like Algorithm, Simulating Annealing, Tabu Search and Neural Networks), those that improved the production scheduling vision. It reviews their accomplishments and it discusses the perspectives of each meta approach. The work represents a practitioner guide to the implementation of these meta-heuristics in scheduling job shop processes. It focuses on the logic, the parameters, representation schemata, and operators they need.

Source: Marcello Fera, Fabio Fruggiero, Alfredo Lambiase, Giada Martino, and Maria Elena Nenni,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.