Real-Time Manufacturing Software

Optimizing the Timber Supply Chain

IN-TIME is an innovative Product-Service Solution for the production, storage and commercialisation of timber components along the supply chain.

A collaborative approach is used, combining MJC²'s production planning and inventory optimization software with innovative sensor and robotic handling equipment to automate the extended timber supply chain.

IN-TIME provides an e-commerce framework within which customers and suppliers can interact, reducing ordering times from many days to as little as a few hours. Integrated with the e-commerce functionality is production planning software which allows the supply chain to react in real-time to new customer orders. As soon as an order is placed, the corresponding production run is scheduled automatically. Thus the production operation is continuously reoptimized and the lead times on orders are dramatically reduced.

A key component of the IN-TIME solution is the real-time production planning algorithms used to schedule the sawmill operation.

The manufacturing scheduling process is complicated by several factors:

  • Supply chain considerations: the sawmill is just one, albeit important, link in the timber supply chain, which is driven by the availability of raw materials from managed forestry operations, and by the rapidly changing downstream demand.
  • Production scheduling rules: the sawmill is a multi-stage production operation, with multiple cutting and finishing machines running in parallel, each machine potentially capable of producing an overlapping set of finished goods specifications.
  • Inventory & capacity constraints: storage capacity is not infinite, so stocks of finished goods have to be balanced intelligently against forecast orders.

IN-TIME Innovations

A further challenge for the scheduling software was presented by the sensor and handling equipment innovations which were implemented in parallel.

An innovative rotating storage drum was developed which allows a wider range of products to be stored in a space-efficient (and energy-efficient) way.

Automation was further increased by use of advanced sensor technology to assess quality and provide a real-time view of inventory levels.

MJC²'s PIMSS toolset was used to address this real-time production scheduling problem. PIMSS can model the required sequencing and allocation rules accurately to ensure a feasible and efficient plan, while also maintaining inventory levels within physical and service-based constraints.

The real-time scheduling algorithms allow automatic allocation of new orders (received via integrated e-commerce functionality) to existing inventory or new production runs, exploiting available capacity and balancing workload across the plant.

IN-TIME Results

The IN-TIME approach resulted in a significant increase in efficiency along the timber supply chain, particularly for the sawmill operation:

  • Better utilisation of cutting and finishing equipment, increasing effective capacity.
  • Faster response to customer orders, reducing lead times from days to hours.
  • Reduced waste, leading to lower energy usage and environmental impact.
  • Balanced workload, resulting in less overtime and better quality of life for employees.
  • Reduced inventory, while increasing service levels for customers.



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