Best MIS Scheduling Module


Good Morning,

We are currently evaluating different MIS systems in hopes to upgrade so something a little more powerful (better integrations, automation, etc.) than our current system. There's one particular feature that I haven't found that I'm hoping someone else knows may exist. I'm looking for a more robust scheduling system that has the ability to take the decision making as far as which job to work on next away from the operator/supervisor. I envision it being able to calculate needed labor hours, machine availability and it being able to prioritize jobs automatically. I envision basically a large TV screen say in bindery where when an employee finishes what they're working on, they log out of it, look up, see the next job, go to it and log on and start working. Does that make sense?

I'm also thinking, if the system has that capability to prioritize, it could also warn a CSR when they enter job and assign a due date that there isn't enough time to complete this job in this time frame without intervention. Right now, CSRs can write up an infinite amount of work for a given day and the production manager has to see this then go back to each CSR and find out what really needs done for that day or what can date change. If they were warned at job entry we could be more proactive about it.

So again, my question is... Does this exist?

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Hi, What you are asking for requires an innate level of intelligence - AI

Imagine all of the rules and governing factors that would need to be defined to make those kind of decisions with any human interaction (and get them right every time) - the system would have to know/understand you entire production capabilites - not just in the pressroom, but prepress and post-press as well, and what criteria you felt were important plan the job.

For example: Prefered press for that profile of work? Ink colours (so they can be run in sequence without washups - litho)? Material properties (is he material suitable for the press)? amount of solids? Customer preferences (does the work for one client take precedence over another)? workers upcoming holidays/sick?... the list is endless. That doesn't even take account of any prepress hurdles (e.g. proofing, when the customer delays), or post-press e.g. booklet maker availability. Was the due-date a promise, fixed, or a guess?

Can a scheduling module find spare capacity on the estimated press and auto-plan a job around other jobs already committed to? - yes, can it make human decisions? - not so sure. I always say to people - If you are scheduling now manually and get an integrated MIS with scheduling, it;s like going from the horse-and-cart to to a modern car, or a wind-up drill to an electric drill - it's a TOOL that makes your life a lot easier - it doesn;t REPLACE the human brain. If you're NOT scheduling now in some way, it's a massive change in procedures. It can easily become a full-time job for one person, do not under-estimate that, despite all the razzle-dazzle you'll see in demos.

I do know that some stand-alone scheduling systems do have some AI, but the setup is very complex and protrqcted (like 6-9 months), cost is high, and maintenance equally demanding.

Must will come down to your budget on the MIS/other modules and how cosely what they offer fits with your existing model. I stand to be corrected, but I think what you're asking for does NOT exist quite in that way unless you have $100K+ JUSt for the scheduling module, and another $200K for the rest of the MIS.

Good luck.
Thanks Trevor. I know this would be a crazy complicated system to implement and maintain. I am more so trying to "shoot for the moon" and see where we could realistically end up.

We currently schedule some machines/departments but it becomes so burdensome that most departments are just sorting jobs in our MIS by date due and printing by that priority with exceptions for jobs that need expedited due to something later in production that takes more time. We do not have a full time scheduler. More so a combination of the production manager and team supervisors looking at jobs in and prioritizing. Hoping for an easier way.
I would suggest picking an MIS whose scheduling interface you like and that has an API you can utilize. You could, over time, slowly build out the set of rules yourself that determine how a job gets scheduled and use the API to represent that in your MIS. You'll just need to make sure you always have staff who can use the API and understand whatever scripting language it requires.

The reason what you're asking is so complicated is because there are a lot of small "if" questions that have to be answered for a scheduling question to be correct. None of the individual questions might be particularly difficult to answer and if you start by scripting your simple decisions, you can work up from there. That's probably what a hypothetical "$100K scheduling module" would spend 6-9 months of setup doing.
Have you taken a look at EFI PrintFlow? Here's a description of the product. If you want more information, let me know and I can get a demo set up for you.
[h=2]EFI PrintFlow Scheduling[/h]
  • Provides dynamic scheduling views including an interactive Gantt chart
  • Provides a real-time production and schedule status at a glance
  • Allows drag-and-drop schedule editing with conflict alerts
  • Allows manual overrides and freezing and grouping of jobs
  • Provides on-site access and a remote web-view of scheduling information
  • Supports scheduling of outside services and tracks proofs out/in
  • Automatically loads new jobs as they are created
  • Automatically determines the optimal production path for every job
  • Synchronizes/sequences work based on job characteristics and production constraints
  • Creates automated, up-to-the-minute run lists for all work centers
  • Provides automated, real-time updates from the shop floor
  • Takes a holistic "global" approach, rather than the traditional focus on individual jobs or work centers
  • Continuously factors in thousands of constraints including customer requirements, job specifications, and the capabilities and availability of materials, tools, equipment, employees and more
  • Uses rules-based logic and can be configured to your plant's unique production methods and scheduling requirements
  • Supports parallel work centers, automating load distribution to equipment with similar capabilities
Hopefully something will change with the EFI buyout. EFI has been a terrible software vendor to work with overall - we've used their web-to-print, Pace, and Matrix so far. They check a lot of boxes with features but a lot have defects or bugs or other "gotcha"'s that make you feel like you bought a shoddy used car because things don't work like they should. Would really advise looking elsewhere.
I wish I could give you a confident suggestion of who to run to, but since my company has been unable to move away from any of the aforementioned EFI products I mentioned ("I don't want to make another huge investment just to have the same problems with a new vendor!" is the reason), I don't have much experience with any competing pieces of software.

Just wanted you to hear the real experiences of a 5+ year customer of theirs before making a big purchase.
The trick to doing this "scheduling" functionality is to have all the information required to build rules around. Begin with order detail, shipping detail, Once Jobs have been broken into components, which will be converted into signatures then onto layouts, Each Layout then needs to generate a Print Estimate, which will calculates the list of finishing or bindery operations setup times and run times required.
Now you have a list of the operational machine time required to move each layout's content through bindery/finishing/shipping.
This would be an enormous amount of data for employees to enter and maintain, however, CSS does all this by combining many sources of data, Order entry, PDF files, and reading each layout engine output's JDF file, then using the capabilities of DataManager to do the rest.
Lastly, you can focus on how to build your automated scheduling.
CSS Group has a fully capable system that has a stand alone MIS system, integrates with all the normal Print MIS systems, and can automate the integration with many Prepress systems and layout engines.
Having a ridiculous scheduling system like I originally posted was just my over-the-top wish in capability for a new MIS. I thought I remembered seeing a presentation of software of similar capability from HP some time ago but I can't find my notes on it now. Either way, we're still searching for a better MIS to help us automate and do work more efficiently. Most solutions I've looked at have been better than what we currently have, but not better enough to go through the pain of switching. Pace and Slingshot seem to be the most comprehensive, knowing we're going to pay through the nose for them.
After watching a Scheduling demo of Avanti SlingShot, it can actually do almost everything I was looking for. Just wanted to follow up for anyone interested.


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