Selecting and Implementing an Advanced Planning System (APS)

December 29, 2023

Effective supply chain management in the contemporary business landscape requires more than clear communication with trade partners and reading market changes. It involves anticipating stock plans, managing service levels, and minimising costs. To achieve this, alongside a conventional warehouse management system, adopting advanced planning systems becomes imperative. These integrated solutions enable businesses to proactively plan, optimise resources, and efficiently respond to dynamic market demands, ensuring competitiveness and cost-effectiveness.

trace. is dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes realise their supply chain's full potential. We study and innovate technological solutions, paving the way for your growth and success despite challenging circumstances.

APS Revamps the Planning Process

APS rethinks traditional planning with the inclusion of data-driven decision-making, sophisticated forecasting algorithms, AI adoption, error analysis and target & constraint optimisation. An advanced planning system can drive increased availability and responsiveness, improved working capital, and overall profitability. It does this by often enabling step-change improvements in planning processes, sales & operational planning (S&OP) and integrated business planning (IBP) - that would otherwise not be possible.  

What is an Advanced Planning System?

An Advanced Planning System (APS) in the context of supply chain and inventory management is a sophisticated software tool designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of supply chain operations. These systems go beyond traditional inventory management and are integral to modern supply chain management for several reasons:

  • Demand Planning and Forecasting: APS systems use complex algorithms and historical data to predict future demand for products. This helps businesses plan their inventory levels more accurately, reducing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory.
  • Production Scheduling: They assist in scheduling production activities by considering various constraints like machine availability, labour, and materials. This leads to more efficient use of resources and reduces downtime.
  • Supply Chain Optimisation: APS can optimise the entire supply chain, from the procurement of raw materials to the delivery of finished products. This involves selecting the best suppliers, transportation modes, and routes to minimise costs and time while maintaining quality.
  • Integration of Various Functions: APS integrates various supply chain functions such as procurement, manufacturing, distribution, and sales. This holistic approach provides a more comprehensive view of the supply chain, enabling better decision-making.
  • Real-time Data and Analytics: These systems provide real-time data and analytics, which are crucial for responding quickly to market changes, supply chain disruptions, or unexpected demand.
  • What-if Analysis: APS allows for “what-if” scenarios, enabling managers to understand the potential impact of different decisions before implementing them.
  • Collaboration Across Departments and Entities: It facilitates better collaboration between different departments within a company and with external entities like suppliers and distributors.

APS is often part of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system but focuses more on the optimisation and efficiency of the supply chain. Its advanced analytical capabilities and integration of various supply chain components make it a vital tool for modern businesses looking to streamline their operations and respond agilely to market demands.

Incorporating APS in SCM

Here are several ways to effectively integrate APS into your supply chain:

  • Demand Forecasting: Utilise APS to improve demand forecasting accuracy. APS can provide more precise forecasts by analysing historical data, market trends, and customer insights. Again, this strategy ensures better inventory management and reduces the risk of overstocking or stockouts.
  • Inventory Optimisation: Implement APS to optimise inventory levels. APS can dynamically adjust economic order quantities, reorder points, and safety stock levels based on real-time demand fluctuations and lead times. This minimises excess stock while ensuring product availability.
  • Material Requirements Planning (MRP): This is a system used by businesses to manage inventory, production planning, and scheduling effectively. MRP helps in ensuring that the right materials are available for production and the right products are available for delivery to customers at the right time. 
  • Production Planning: Streamline production processes with APS. It can create optimal production schedules considering machine capacity, labour resources, and materials availability. This results in reduced production lead times and improved resource utilisation.
  • Distribution Planning: Enhance distribution efficiency by using APS to optimise route planning, load scheduling, and delivery routes. This reduces transportation costs and ensures timely deliveries to customers.
  • Supplier Collaboration: Foster better supplier relationships and reduce lead times by integrating APS for real-time collaboration. It allows for improved communication, visibility into supplier performance, and quicker response to supply chain disruptions.
  • Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP): Integrate APS into S&OP processes. APS helps align sales forecasts, production plans, and inventory strategies. This coordination ensures that demand and supply are synchronised, preventing imbalances in the supply chain.
  • Real-time Data Analytics: Leverage APS for real-time data analytics. It enables supply chain professionals to monitor operations, identify bottlenecks, and make informed decisions promptly. Real-time insights are invaluable in responding to market fluctuations and unexpected disruptions.
  • Transportation Optimisation: Use APS to optimise transportation planning and execution. It helps in selecting the most cost-effective carriers, routes, and modes of transportation. APS can also consider factors like delivery time windows and carrier capacity to minimise transportation costs and improve delivery efficiency.
  • Dynamic Pricing: Implement dynamic pricing strategies with the help of APS. By analysing real-time demand, inventory levels, and market conditions, APS can adjust pricing dynamically. This strategy maximises revenue while ensuring that pricing remains competitive.
  • Quality Control and Compliance: Integrate APS for quality control and compliance management. APS can help track and manage quality control processes at various supply chain stages, ensuring that products meet quality standards and regulatory requirements.
  • Constraint-Based Planning: Incorporate APS to consider various constraints in planning processes. These constraints can include production capacity, warehouse space, transportation limitations, and regulatory requirements. APS optimises plans while adhering to these constraints.
  • Multi-Echelon Inventory Optimisation: Apply APS to optimise inventory across multiple tiers of the supply chain. It ensures that inventory is efficiently allocated throughout the network, minimising carrying costs and improving service levels.
  • Continuous Improvement: Implement APS as part of a continuous improvement strategy. The supply chain is dynamic, and APS allows for ongoing refinement of processes. By using real-time data and feedback, supply chain professionals can identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments.

Selecting an APS 

Selecting an Advanced Planning System (APS) for a business involves a thorough evaluation process to ensure the chosen system aligns with the company's specific needs, goals, and existing processes. Here are key steps and considerations for businesses in selecting an APS:

  • Assess Business Needs and Goals:
  • Identify the specific challenges and requirements of your supply chain.
  • Define clear goals for what you want the APS to achieve (e.g., increased efficiency, reduced costs, better demand forecasting).
  • Evaluate Features and Capabilities:
  • Ensure the APS has the necessary features, such as demand planning, production scheduling, inventory management, and what-if scenario analysis.
  • Look for flexibility and scalability so the system can grow with your business.
  • Integration with Existing Systems:
  • The APS should be compatible with your existing IT infrastructure, such as ERP systems, warehouse management systems (WMS), and other relevant software.
  • Seamless integration is crucial for data consistency and workflow efficiency.
  • User-Friendliness and Training Requirements:
  • Consider the user interface and ease of use. A user-friendly system can reduce training time and increase adoption rates.
  • Check what training and support are provided by the vendor.
  • Cost and Return on Investment (ROI):
  • Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including upfront costs, implementation, training, and ongoing maintenance.
  • Consider the potential ROI based on improved efficiency, reduced costs, and other benefits.
  • Vendor Reputation and Support:
  • Research the vendor's reputation, stability, and experience in the industry.
  • Assess the level of customer support offered, including availability, responsiveness, and quality of service.
  • Customisation and Flexibility:
  • Determine if the APS can be customised to fit unique business processes and needs.
  • Consider the system’s ability to adapt to changing business environments and supply chain dynamics.
  • Security and Compliance:
  • Ensure the system meets your data security standards and industry compliance requirements.
  • Consider the security features of the system, especially if it's cloud-based.
  • Demo and Pilot Testing:
  • Request demos to see the system in action.
  • Consider conducting a pilot test with a small segment of your operations to evaluate the system's effectiveness in a real-world scenario.
  • References and Case Studies:
  • Ask for references and case studies from the vendor to understand how their system has performed for other businesses, especially those in similar industries or with similar supply chain complexities.

Remember, the best APS for one business might not be the best for another. It's important to select a system that specifically aligns with your business's unique processes, size, industry, and future growth plans.

Solving complex supply chain management issues with trace. 

trace. is an Australian supply chain consulting firm that specialises in helping businesses with the selection and implementation of Advanced Planning Systems (APS). We focus on finding APS solutions that match your specific business goals and supply chain needs. Our team offers expert guidance throughout the process, ensuring the APS integrates smoothly with your existing systems. By choosing trace. you'll gain improved operational efficiency and a solid return on investment, with ongoing support and training to maximise your APS benefits for lasting business success.

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