Frequently when we work with clients to implement decision support tools for supply chain scheduling and planning, they often have some unique constraint that is essential to model and may be unique to their environment. Some recent examples we have encountered include the following:
- When producing a batch in a make to order environment, the plant always produces some extra amount called the purge quantity which is stuck in the piping from the reactor to the packout line. After purging the line, this material is recycled into the next batch.
- A warehouse can have capacity constraints on both the
- Throughput based on the number and type of doors and
- Storage based on material characteristics such as hazardous material classifications.
- When working with a dairy industry client, the bill of materials changes throughout the year based on the component ratios of the milk produced by the cows which drives the product split.
These types of situations are a regular occurrence and require modeling tools that allow for the flexibility to deal with them. We will implement decision support tools either with a development suite such as Aspen Tech’s Supply Chain ManagementTM or develop an application that connects to an optimization engine such as FICO’s XpressTM. These tools provide a base starting point but then allow for adding modeling constraints that are required to include to get to a solution that the client can actually implement.
In addition, having this flexibility allows the work processes and tools that enable the work processes to evolve over time as the business needs change.
This flexibility though has to be balanced with some level of standardization. Therefore we will often build a new application by using a previous application as a starting point. For a production scheduling tool, there are many things that are common between different implementations including how to represent the schedule via an interactive Gantt chart, common basic reports, standard interfaces to external systems, etc. In a production planning tool, typically there are plants, warehouses and transshipment points to be modelled via a network representation; costs and capacities at each of these nodes in the network that need to be modelled; and an objective function that is either to minimize cost or maximize profit. All of these would be common elements between different planning model implementations.
- Flexibility allows for
- Modelling essential constraints that may be unique to a particular client’s environment but are required to get to a feasible solution that the client can actually implement.
- Changing the tool over time as the business needs change.
- Standardization allows for
- Faster / cheaper implementation.
- Faster / cheaper support.
- Ease of training when moving to a different role but using similar tools.
Having a hybrid of flexibility with standardization is the best of both worlds!
Profit Point is helping several large chemical manufacturers upgrade their many Aspen SCM scheduling models with a goal to achieving long term support-ability in the new Aspen architecture of ver 8.5. An Aspen SCM (MIMI) Upgrade is no small undertaking, but we have been helping people manage, support, and enhance their scheduling models for over 20 years.
I have seen many Mimi scheduling models over the last 20 years, in many different businesses, and it is still amazing to me how well these scheduling models work. Their superior applicability is primarily due to creativeness of the their original modelers and their efforts to incorporate all the important aspects of the plants which they schedule, and most that I have seen have remained relevant and useful all these years. Their longevity is due is no small part to the flexibility of the scheduling environment which is Aspen SCM (AKA Mimi). This allows for many minor changes to the tool as equipment characteristics change or are upgraded, or as the business needs change, or indeed as the scheduler changes. This new version retains that flexibility which has made Aspen SCM scheduling models still relevant today.
In previous version changes, Aspen SCM has always been backward compatible; meaning that with nominal effort a newer Aspen SCM version would open an older version’s scheduling model. This was true up to ver 8.x released earlier this year. With this version, the older scheduling models, especially those that were developed in house, will not be able to function properly without a more substantial effort. Version 8.x brings a new XML based architecture and with it a new look and feel, more compatible with today’s applications. In addition, it has some useful new features that can make scheduling easier. Link here https://www.aspentech.com/products/aspen-plant-scheduler/ Aspen SCM remains, in my opinion, the best tool for the job of scheduling plants of all types and sizes. This new version is no break from that long history of being the best, indeed it has just been made even better.
With plants around the world, our customers trust Profit Point to upgrade their effective scheduling models to the latest version of Aspen SCM (Mimi) so they can enjoy many more years of effective scheduling at their plants.
We love doing this work. Call us if you are facing the same upgrade challenge, we may be able to help get you going.
September 4th, 2013 4:39 pm Category: Scheduling, by: Richard Guy
Can Pulling the Plug on a Legacy Application Be Pouring Money down the Drain?
It’s expensive to develop new business solutions. If an existing application continues to accommodate your business requirements, and the complete software application platform (licensing, service, and support model) presents a continued value proposition, then why change? What language the code is written in or how old the software package is matters less than whether you can sustain it, support it and maintain it.
For an example: Why is AspenTech’s supply chain management solution, Aspen SCM™, more commonly known as MIMI™, still used in production planning and scheduling at companies around the world? In this era of high tech rapid application development, you would think an interactive modeling interface that started its beginnings more than 25 years ago would die peacefully. But in this case, it’s not dead, it is still flourishing.
Since Profit Point supports a variety of MIMI™ users in the chemical, biotech, tire, and petrochemical industries we recognize its history of value, and it’s potential to change with the changing business climate. MIMI has allowed companies to take control of their production scheduling problems, and help them maximize throughput while optimizing resource investment.
Profit Point has evaluated and supported various supply-chain management solutions, and we continue to provide support for older MIMI versions used for production planning and scheduling. It’s the built in scheduling and task sequencing capabilities, and MIMI’s user-friendly interface and the ease which it can be configured to address a company’s specific business process requirements that makes it the ideal legacy supply-chain management solution. Furthermore, leveraging MIMI’s scheduling models to integrate with ERP systems, such as SAP, Oracle or others, streamlines the scheduling process with minimal human interaction. Even after 20 plus years of use, MIMI’s flexibility, configurability, ability to integrate with other databases and custom applications, allows it to survive. Add in MIMI’s ability to model a company’s business processes at a fraction of the cost to implement a new system, and you have a survivor. Aspen SCM™ or MIMI™ (Which by the way, stands for Manager for Interactive Modeling Interfaces) continues to outlast other scheduling tools
In our opinion, legacy systems can continue to provide exceptional value if nurtured with the right service and support resources. Pulling the plug on some legacy applications can be pouring money down the drain. These are resources that can be used in other areas.