Scheduling in an auto assembly plant is a complex task. There are many thousands of variants of a single car model that could be produced, given options such as paint color, engine type, and trim package. Consumers don’t want to wait to get the car they want. Yet schedules are constrained, for example, by the need to batch cars by color (to avoid costly paint change-overs), to space out cars with labor-intensive options like sunroofs (to avoid worker cycle-time constraints), and to avoid scheduling more cars with popular options (such as GPS) than there are parts.
Automakers have developed software to handle these constraints. Yet this software ran slowly and required hand tweaking of the schedule, so many automakers ran their scheduling programs only once a week, significantly adding to lead times and inability to react to customer demand or supply availability.
This i2 software manages this schedule variance process. It allows automakers to update their schedules daily. It also dramatically increases the percentage of time that the computer-generated schedules can be used as-is, freeing personnel for analysis rather than expediting.
Using i2’s Optimal Scheduler, it’s easy for production to manage scheduling options by adding, subtracting, or modifying constraints. For example, the user could specify a maximum of 150 cars built per day with GPS, or a maximum of 3 cars together with sunroofs.
The software has been awarded a number of patents, and has been adopted by both General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.