// 23+ years experience

Supply chain management implementation

We like to start our projects with a comprehensive assessment of your current Supply Chain.


Supply chain design
& business process analasis

We start by taking a holistic view of your current Supply Chain Operations. We learn how it is operated, where the stress points are and the current strengths and weaknesses. We work with your experienced planners to create a ‘To-Be’ vision and create a road map to achieve the End State.

“I love how Ashlake takes the time to understand business processes and is invested in our future and planning efforts.”
Director of Technology
Altria Co.

We understand that major changes in the operation of your Supply Chain cannot happen overnight. The key is in understanding and addressing the immediate shortcomings while keeping the big picture in mind, and working to cure the cause verses relieve the symptom.

We know you can’t always afford a long drawn out process before getting some improvements and real benefits. Our emphasis is to work with you to identify the ‘low hanging fruit’ and get started with some applications which can deliver quick wins and real benefits which can then justify additional investment in more sophisticated solutions. Take, for instance, this experience from one of our clients: 

“We have been able to achieve an overall inventory (Raw Materials, WIP and Finished Products) reduction of at least $2M. With this inventory reduction, the project payback was less than 6 months.”
Manager of Planning


Data Mapping
& Integration Design

Supply Chain Solutions have a voracious appetite for data. Data requirements range from master data typically extracted from ERP systems such as Product Masters, BOMs, Rate, Routings, and so on to transactional data including inventories, demands, shipments and receipts, production actuals, and so on.

When starting Advanced Planning and Scheduling projects, most of our clients have major challenges finding and providing the required data. Many clients make the mistake of deferring their Supply Chain Projects because they conclude that they cannot be successful and it will be better to wait for some time or some other initiatives so that better quality data is available. The reality of the situation is that often most of the time the data does not get better, and the lack of ordered systematic planning and scheduling solutions leads to more and more chaos which has major bottom line performance impacts in areas including customer service, inventory, production efficiency and overall profitability. 

“The only time I was involved in the project was during the kick-off and the project celebration. Working with a company like Ashlake is every VP’s dream!”
Vice President
Altria Co.

We have seen that time and time again when an organization is committed to improving their planning and scheduling, and partners with us to proceed in a systematic way, the APS project will firstly identify and prioritize data shortcomings, provide automated ways in which to ‘cleanse’ or improve data quality and integrity, and provide alternative means of managing certain types of data not often found in ERP or execution systems. With this process an Advanced Planning and Scheduling application is soon put into production and the planners and schedulers quickly spot data issues and provide much needed feedback which results in changes of business process and practices which then results in a lasting step change in data quality and integrity.

Ashlake has extensive experience from working with numerous clients on managing mission critical data, building and then supporting the integration infrastructure needed for realizing sustained benefits from all of the clients data resources.


The Ashlake

How does Ashlake build an APS application when the client cannot tell us exactly what the application needs to do?

Here is the situation:

What makes working with Ashlake as an APS provider different is our immense experience and our commitment to our philosophy of investing in people.


Creating Smart

Have you ever tried driving a car while looking in the rear view mirror?

If you focus too much on looking back instead of looking forwards you will most likely run into  costly obstacles. The majority of systems that a typical organization uses fall under the category of ‘transactional systems’.  

Such systems while often large and complex, and which contain the life and blood for an organization by virtue of providing a structured way of handling sales orders, procurements, tracking production, materials and so on,  are not typically designed to provide decision support.

Typically such systems are designed to record events that have occurred and track the organizations response to such events, where an event could be the receipt of a sales order, or issuance of a purchase order, or execution of a stock transfer order, and so on.

Both ERP and MES systems fall into the class of Transactional Systems.  Such systems are characterized by have extremely large data bases from which relevant data is extracted and presented to the user in the form of screens or reports.

True Supply Chain Systems are not Transactional Systems.  They fall into a category often referred to as ‘Decision Support Systems’.  A modern way to conceptualize Decision Support Systems is to think of Smart Applications – which are actionable, data-driven solutions offered in real-time.  Such applications use a snapshot of the current set of open transactions to propose a set of responses (proposed production quantity and sequence, proposed resource allocations, proposed stock movements, shipments, and so on ) to best meet the overall goals (e.g. 99% Service Level,  Inventory at or above target, Minimal use of Overtime, 95+% production efficiency) and so on.  By nature Smart Applications are number crunchers (compute intensive) to allow them to explore the different options that exist and propose not only a feasible plan but also one that will be the most profitable.  Typically such systems read large amounts of data into memory, process the data to generate a plan/schedule and then write back to the database a small set of results (e.g. a proposed schedule).  Such systems by nature need to be highly interactive to allow the planner to try out different conditions and explore various contingencies.

This fundamental difference between transactional systems and Smart Applications is the reason that ERP systems have not been generally successful in delivering truly usable, sustainable, and accurate applications in the Advanced Planning and Scheduling area.


Advanced Planning
& Scheduling Systems

What’s special about Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS) systems?  What makes them tick? Some of the functionalities that are needed to provide support for the myriad of decisions that a planner or scheduler needs to make on a daily basis are:

1. Handling multiple constraints.

The planning and scheduling processes require the ability to simultaneously consider equipment and capacity constraints, material availability constraints, labor availability constraints, shipping constraints, shelf life constraints, etc…

The APS solution needs to be able to provide a systematic framework for incorporating and providing the scheduler with the ability to assess the impact of various constraints by selectively enabling and disabling constraints and evaluating the impact on key parameters such as on-time shipments, inventory cost, changeover costs, etc.

2. Optimization based planning

Many planning decisions will have a definitive impact on the economic performance of the supply chain which in turn will directly impact the overall profitability.  In virtually all supply chains decisions tend to be inter-related meaning one decision can have one implication and another decision can have different implications.

Optimization is our preferred method for finding the combination of decisions that will give us the lowest risk and most favorable plan. Optimization can be leveraged for many planning problems to give us the targeted plan that we need, however, requires experienced modelers to ensure that the supply chain is modeled in a realistic manner and that the proposed plan can be analyzed and easily understood by the planner.  

“The Scheduling application has resulted in a 50% reduction in our scheduler’s hours. They are now able to refresh the schedule consisting of ~ 15,000 orders in less than a minute, and our shop schedule is always up-to-date, dependable, and visible to others.”
Director of Supply Chain
Mid-State Machining

3. Simulation

Scheduling engines, in particular, rely on simulation to show the scheduler what will happen if a particular schedule is followed.  By simulating the schedule, the scheduler can quickly see when he may have material run-outs when an order will ship late, when there will be a conflict with the use of a particular resource, what the impact of taking down equipment for maintenance and so on.

The use of simulation also allows the scheduler to generate multiple scheduling scenarios, compare them side by side and evaluate which one will make the most sense.

4. Expert Systems / Heuristics / AI

For a Supply Chain tool to be adaptable and flexible,  there needs to be capability to incorporate particular rules, constraints, data handling needs, and a set of non-standard conditions in the process of generating plans and schedules.

Heuristics are often used to generate plans and schedules based on rules and conditions that apply to a plant or a particular supply chain.

Heuristics and expert systems allow us to capture the knowledge and experience from our planners and schedulers and encapsulate them such that the knowledge can be applied consistently and becomes accessible to others even when our most experienced planners and schedulers are not available.

5. Visualization

The value of a plan or a schedule is only as much as it can be understood by the planner or scheduler.  Supply Chain Solutions by necessity find ingenious ways to present their output so that the planner can intuitively understand what the plan or schedule is proposing.

Many traditional systems present data in large tabular forms similar to spreadsheets.  While such presentation of data can be useful for detailed understanding, to get an overview of the proposed plan,  much more visual tools in the form of distribution maps, capacity utilization charts,  material flow charts, and interactive scheduling Gannt charts are typically used.


Long Term

Business processes are changing – APS applications need to be adaptable and configurable to provide sustained value with low cost of ownership.

The goal of our support team is to ensure that you have maximum uptime with your application and that any kind of application issue can be quickly analyzed and acted upon.

Ashlake can provide 7/24 support if required or provide support on a time and materials basis.  Ashlake has a number of support agreements in which specific SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) are in place and Ashlake prides itself on being highly responsive to all support requests.  For more information.

“APS has also enabled collaboration between our production, Engineering, Programming, Procurement, Shop Floor and Project Management departments.”
Support Manager
Mid-State Machining