Finding software can be overwhelming. We help production managers choose the right production scheduling software to track and manage capacity and scheduling.

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NetSuiteFrontRunners 2020

NetSuite is a business management software suite offered as a service that performs enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) functions. It is a horizontal package designed for an extensive rang... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 106 recommendations

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E2 Shop SystemFrontRunners 2020

E2 by Shoptech Corporation is a manufacturing solution that offers scheduling, purchasing, shipping, customer management and accounting. It’s designed specifically for job shops, contract and a variety of make-to-order manufacture... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 57 recommendations

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ProdsmartFrontRunners 2020

Prodsmart is a cloud-based real-time production tracking and management solution designed for businesses in the manufacturing and fabrication industries. Features include shop floor real-time data collection, production analysis, ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 29 recommendations

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Visual EstiTrack

Henning Software has helped small to midsize manufacturers and job shops for 30 years. Visual EstiTrack ERP has complete material requirements planning, product lifecycle, supply chain, customer relationship, human resource and ma... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 23 recommendations

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KatanaFrontRunners 2020

Katana is a modern manufacturing & inventory management software for small and scaling businesses. Its visual interface and smart real-time master planning allow manufacturers to get an overview of the entire business from one cen... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 16 recommendations

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M1 ERP

ECi M1 is a subscription-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, available on-premise or via the cloud, that automates financials, inventory, production, sales/quoting and production planning. The solution is suitable for... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 recommendations

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QT9 ERP

QT9 ERP is a highly-scalable manufacturing platform for connecting and automating business data from multiple systems into one scalable and intuitive solution. QT9 ERP integrates inventory management, accounting management, sales ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 recommendations

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DELMIAworksFrontRunners 2020

DELMIAworks (formerly IQMS) ERP is developed specifically for SMB and large discrete and batch process manufacturers in the aerospace, medical device, automotive, food and beverage, consumer products, plastics, packaging, and elec... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 10 recommendations

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Brahmin Solutions

Brahmin Solutions is a cloud-based Inventory and MRP software for fast-growing SMBs. The product is designed for manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers to manage all operations dealing with purchasing, sales, inventory, and man... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 9 recommendations

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SyteLineFrontRunners 2020

SyteLine is an enterprise resource planning software created specifically for engineer-to-order, make-to-order, make-to-stock, and mixed-mode manufacturers. Customers in both discrete and process manufacturing can benefit from thi... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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Infor VISUAL

Infor VISUAL is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System with end-to-end functionality built for manufacturing organizations looking for a complete solution that supports the entire operational lifecycle, from planning to sour... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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Statii

Statii software is a cloud-based system for small manufacturing companies. The solution is designed to facilitate communication between team members more effectively and manage activities involved in any manufacturing process. The... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations

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MIE Trak Pro

One word sums up MIE Trak Pro: flexibility. You may be using tired old spreadsheets or an ERP system that can't scale with your manufacturing company. When your organization grows, MIE Trak Pro adapts to your needs, striking a bal... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations

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MRPEasy

MRPeasy is a manufacturing software for small manufacturers. The software is a suite comprising production planning, CRM, procurement, supply chain management, and inventory control modules. The application features a drag-and-dro... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations

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Visibility ERP

Visibility ERP is a fully integrated and modern ERP solution designed to meet the unique needs of manufacturers of complex products (including To-Order, ETO, CTO, MTO, Project Based, Discrete and Hybrid). It provides manufacturers... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 4 recommendations

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Fulcrum

Fulcrum is a cloud-based platform serving small/mid-sized manufacturers and job shops looking for a software platform that truly understands them and their unique, complicated processes. Humans weren’t meant to transcribe data fro... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 3 recommendations

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OmegaCube ERP

OmegaCube ERP is a cloud-based and on-premise enterprise resource planning solution built for manufacturing and distribution. The system serves small to mid-sized companies and was designed for workflow automation. Key features in... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 1 recommendations

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LillyWorks

LillyWorks cloud-based Manufacturing ERP is designed specifically for small manufacturers. It increases visibility to the shop floor & helps manufacturers deliver on time by considering unplanned variability on the shop floor. Bui... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 1 recommendations

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monday.com

monday.com, an award-winning collaboration and project management platform, helps teams plan together efficiently and execute complex projects to deliver results on time. monday.com team management and task management tool allows ... Read more

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Odoo FrontRunners 2020

Odoo Point of Sale (POS) is part of Odoo’s integrated suite of business applications. The module is available both on and offline and provides unified data across stores and has an integrated inventory management function. Od... Read more

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Buyers guide


Last Updated: April 15, 2021

When standard manufacturing resource planning (MRP) tools are not powerful enough, production managers turn to more robust and more complicated, production planning and scheduling systems (aka “advanced planning & scheduling”). These best-of-breed planning systems use advanced mathematical models to better simulate the production environment. We wrote this buyer’s guide to help buyers unravel the web of manufacturing planning and scheduling solutions.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Manufacturing Production Planning and Scheduling Software?
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Common Functionality
Benefits and Potential Issues
Market Trends to Understand

What Is Manufacturing Production Planning and Scheduling Software?

“Theory is closer to practice in theory than in practice” is a truism in complex manufacturing. Manufacturing resource planning software is used by manufacturers to allocate raw materials and plan production. MRP works well for manufacturers that have large runs or few products. However, the planning methodologies used by most MRP applications cannot handle the demands of large numbers of small runs of products, orders that change frequently or large numbers of make-to-order (MTO) or customized products. That’s where manufacturing and planning scheduling software comes in.

Manufacturing scheduling software extends MRP in four important ways.

  • Instead of using total capacity as a baseline for each set of planning calculations, it uses available capacity. The difference is that MRP assumes that no other work is happening, while planning and scheduling systems constrains planning based on jobs that are already scheduled.
  • MRP uses simple formulas to project times to complete. Planning and scheduling solutions use more complex models, often running several different scenarios to create a more realistic simulation.
  • MRP tends to take stepped approach to ordering: materials are ordered, received, and then production begins.  Planning and scheduling programs incorporate order lead time when planning the manufacturing planning process. 
  • MRP does not consider the value of particular jobs. All jobs are treated equally. Manufacturing planning and scheduling systems, on the other hand, factors in the profitability of each of the jobs and prioritizes the most profitable jobs.

Manufacturing schedule software is best suited to operations that specialize in MTO or assemble to order (ATO) operations and in agile facilities. They are also useful for organizations that use a large number of components or have complex tasks. Finally, they are critical for firms that have a limited facility that is shared among different product lines that are competing for resources.

Inventory manager dashboard screenshot in Netsuite

Inventory manager dashboard in Netsuite

What Type of Buyer Are You?

The first step in evaluating production planning software is to determine what kind of buyer you are. Over 90 percent of buyers fall into one of these three groups:

Enterprise resource planning suite buyer. These buyers value the seamless integration of data and processes that comes from having one system for all functions. For example, they would prefer a full-suite system for estimating, work-in-progress management and accounting that can automatically turn an estimate into a budget for project management, and then match invoices to project status and allocate job costs. These buyers favor ERP software vendors like Oracle, SAP, Sage ERP or Microsoft Dynamics.

Departmental buyer. These buyers work in facilities that are shared by product lines from different vendors. They are balancing demands from different product managers and must schedule production and justify the schedule to peers and management.

Small manufacturer. Small organizations often have limited budgets and fewer IT resources to dedicate to software. In many cases, they may be deciding between a new system and a new piece of equipment. These buyers need cost-effective solutions that are easy to implement and use. They are seeking solutions that maximize the profitability of their plant or job shop.

 

Common Functionality

Production planning and scheduling software is highly complex, and different vendors specialize in various areas of niche functionality. The following table, however, shows the core features of this software category:

Finite capacity scheduling Complex algorithms allow you to forecast the completion of jobs based on limitations on resources, instead of scheduling jobs without regard to such constraints.
Gantt charts Gantt charts display resource utilization.
Live capacity planning Instead of determining the production schedule in advance, which can result in bottlenecks, you can adjust the schedule in real time as issues occur.
Visual, drag-and-drop scheduling You can easily get a visual overview of the production scheduling. New work orders can be dragged and dropped into the schedule, which updates the overall production schedule.
Multiple scheduling priorities You can assign different priority levels to individual jobs/orders when setting the production schedule.
“What if” scenario modeling Manufacturing production planning and scheduling software supports forecasting via multiple “what-if” scenarios.

Benefits and Potential Issues

MRP systems, whether stand-alone or incorporated in an ERP system, offer distinct benefits over less formal systems. These include:

Better use of equipment. Manufacturing planning and scheduling systems increase company utilization of equipment. For example, the system can prioritize the use of the most expensive equipment to lower that equipment’s cost per project or can prioritize the less expensive equipment to decrease costs across jobs. 

Increased profitability. The combination of increasing utilization and prioritizing the more profitable jobs leads to increased profitability.

Identifying bottlenecks. Planning and scheduling systems can identify bottlenecks and their associated procedures or equipment, giving managers an opportunity to boost productivity even further by adding machines or updating methodologies.

One of the biggest issues that arrive from using production planning and scheduling systems is the tendency for managers to “tweak” the system’s recommendations. This can lead to suboptimal results. If the planning and scheduling system continually gives information with which the manager disagrees, the assumptions must be re-examined or the manager should receive additional training.

Market Trends to Understand

While you evaluate production planning and scheduling systems, make sure you consider these market trends:

Convergence with MRP. As the power of desktop computing continues to grow, traditional MRP systems are adding advance planning functions to their toolkits. Planning algorithms that were once only found in high-end planning systems are now in more moderately priced MRP or ERP systems.

Direct interface with shop floor equipment. Some planning and scheduling systems can get utilization information from equipment, either directly or through the manufacturing execution system. This provides two advantages, the information is more current and it does not have to be entered by hand.

Increased employee satisfaction. Production planning systems can consider employee preferences when allocating resources to a job, allowing employees to work preferred hours or on preferred jobs.

Planning using data visualization. Traditional MRP systems produce reports and planning schedules. Manufacturing planning and scheduling systems do, too, but they are also beginning to offer other visualization tools, such as graphical comparisons of the results of different models.

FrontRunners

Your Guide to Top Manufacturing Production Planning & Scheduling Software, September 2020

Software Advice uses reviews from real software users to highlight the top-rated Production Scheduling Software products in North America.

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“Usability” includes user ratings for Functionality and Ease of Use.“Customer Satisfaction” includes user ratings for Customer Support, Likelihood to Recommend and Value for Money.Reviews analysis period: The reviews analysis period spans two years and ends on the 15th of the month prior to publication.