How to maximise the wooden floor production on a complex production line, highly constrained by delivery dates?

The company

This Portuguese company has been dedicated to wood flooring production for more than 50 year and specialises in nurturing wood from around the world.

The experience they have of manufacturing wood products makes them the Portuguese leader and a global business. Their products include hardwood floors, engineered floors and decking, and they are active in over 40 countries and four continents with a turnover of €20M.

The challenge

Due to their continuously expanding order volume, the company identified the need to implement technological solutions within Industry 4.0. The full production process of the company, from order to expedition and then to the client is described in the following diagram:

The company manages orders weekly, adjusting day-by-day their production line to respond to urgent or priority requests.  The line sequencing planner needed to take into consideration several set-up times and waiting periods. All the planning was done and readjusted manually to then be released to the machine operators.

The increasing volume of orders exposes the process’ complexity, lack of agility and impact visibility of changes on the delivery dates.

The project aimed to optimise processes to increase production capacity, improve predictability of the delivery dates to the client, reduce manual tasks, and enhance data visibility. The challenge was tackled by applying optimisation to productive processes aligned with state-of-the-art models to automate scheduling.

The approach

A detailed study was carried out to outline the production process, the flow of information and the existing systems in place. In order to achieve the goals, a modular platform was implemented to tackle all areas.

The platform integrates the existing management tools of the company, summarising all the production management in a user-friendly interface with simplified processing of daily tasks.

The modules and their functionalities are described below:

Order Management - the module connects to the ERP system to manage existing and new orders. It allows dynamic visualisation and allocation of resources from the stock to orders and the anticipation of new supplies.

Machine Configurations - the module attributes characteristics to each machine on the production line. Some of the functionalities include adjusting the efficiency to the specificity of the machine and product, and define working periods for each machine.

Product Management - the module defines and introduces new products to the company production line. It displays and defines the relevant parameters of a product, building the database of the sequencing and the processing times on each machine.

Production Scheduling - The module allows the scheduling of selected orders to the production line. It uses genetic algorithms to find a suggested solution adapted to the company’s goals. The solution can easily be adjusted to accommodate sequencing changes and automatically recompute the new operation and due date times.

Equipment Management - Order processing in each machine - the accepted scheduling is displayed on tablets on the workstation with useful operational information and allows the registration of tasks performed and quantities of each order, quality controls, and maintenance periods.

The production scheduling is performed by building an input from the processed orders to feed the scheduling algorithm. The code uses heuristic and meta-heuristic algorithms to find scheduling solutions that maximise production quantities and minimises delays on delivery of the orders to clients. The algorithm also allows flexibility to accommodate changes and visualise the impact of this on the production line.


This modular platform helps to manage and interlinks all the processes from  the wood supply purchase to optimising the allocation to orders and scheduling, finishing with accurate information to plan delivery and communicate dates to clients.

Achievements

The developed platform gathers several manual tasks in an agile, user-friendly platform, tailored specifically to the company’s needs.

Main implementations/improvements:

  • Integration of existing company systems in one platform.
  • Improved visibility of the location and state of each order and existing stock, improving assignment of stock to order.
  • Automatic tool to schedule selected orders minimising delays on delivery dates.
  • Adapt schedule by reordering orders and quickly get an update on the operational times and due date impact.
  • Improved visibility of the production planning and operation in real-time with more accurate estimated dates of delivery to the client.
  • Support to the sales team through improved accuracy on the definition of target delivery dates for new orders and the digitization of processes - less paper usage and easier access to information.

The platform improved the visibility and management of all the logged information from the supply, order allocation and its production line to the expedition. This allows better tracking and registration of the state of each order, giving higher control of the production line, predictability of delivery dates and satisfaction of the final client.