Thrust Area 1 – System Design and Operations

Goal: Development of methodologies, economic models, and mathematical tools for the systematic, cost-effective design of responsive manufacturing systems and enterprises.

Globalization and changes in the market place have created a need for not only more responsive manufacturing systems, but also responsive enterprises. As we study how reconfiguration affects the integration among the product design, the manufacturing system, and the business model, we expanded the goal of this thrust area to include enterprise level issues. We began examining how reconfiguration can make a supply chain more effective.

Four research projects are defined in order to fulfill the goal of the thrust area and their relationships are illustrated schematically in the figure below.

The goals of the four projects are given below.

  1. Economic tools to provide decentralized decision making about manufacturing control and (re)configuration using computational markets (auction mechanisms)
  2. Design and reconfiguration principles of RMS that have the exact functionality and capacity needed, exactly when needed.
  3. System, Products and Business Models for mass customization manufacturing that help to make decisions with respect to tradeoffs between marketability and production cost.
  4. Methodologies and modeling for enterprise level supply chain to allow engineers a formulized way of designing, manipulating, and evaluating supply chain to achieve the best performance.

Description of TA 1 research

Project TA1-1: Economic Models for Enterprise Reconfiguration.

Manufacturing organizations increasingly span geographic areas and collaborate with other entities in their supply chains. Moreover, productive assets from individual machines to entire plants are becoming increasingly reconfigurable. Thus, the enterprise has multiple ways to fulfill manufacturing goals. This environment requires highly dynamic and decentralized decision processes. Our approach addresses this need by controlling key configuration and allocation decisions through computational markets. In such markets, agents representing production resources form explicit service contracts to produce products. In this model, resources will be allocated to their most valued uses, producing an overall high quality of system or enterprise control. This approach is based upon modern economic design methodologies, and will be implemented using emerging e-commerce mechanisms.

Project TA1-2: System Design Principles.

The focus of the ERC/RMS system-level design research is focusing on multi-product manufacturing systems. Key strategic directions for this effort include the:

  • Design of reconfigurable manufacturing systems that produce multiple products through the optimal allocation of manufacturing resources and tasks so that the system will achieve highest productivity. This includes identifying the number and type of machines required, size of buffers, and the optimal assignment of manufacturing tasks to satisfy production targets with minimum resources. In addition, we will develop a methodology for the reconfiguration of an existing system when the product volume changes or new products are introduced.
  • Derivation of manufacturing system reconfiguration methodologies and operation principles for multiple products with changing product volumes and mix. This includes factors such as lot sizing, scheduling, sequencing, and control policies for responsive order fulfillment. A methodology for simultaneous manufacturing system design and operation for multiple products is being developed. In addition, a system and machine control policy is being developed which considers machine failures and buffers, such that the required production is fulfilled, and the work-in-process is minimized. This will provide guidance to real-time control of the operation of manufacturing systems with large and complex configurations.
  • Development of new analytical tools to analyze the productivity and quality performance of different manufacturing system configurations and aid in the selection of optimal initial configurations and reconfigurations. This will apply solution methodologies for multi-state machine systems, and apply them to system design.
  • Development of a framework for assessing the responsiveness of manufacturing organizations. This methodology will be built upon the reconfigurable manufacturing, lean manufacturing, and six sigma principles and characteristics.

Project TA 1-3 Development of Decision Models for Mass Customization

There are strong interactions between the amount of product variety offered by a company, the complexity of the manufacturing system that produces that variety, and the demand for those products in the market. In order to optimize decision making, it is necessary to understand the impact of variety and its interactions with these various aspects. By developing mathematical models involving the interdisciplinary sciences of marketing, operations research and manufacturing, it is possible to increase understanding and develop tools for analysis and decision support.

There are four strategic directions for this effort:

  • Marketing study will often identify product characteristics that have an impact on the design of the product and the cost of manufacturing. These decisions can result in reduced profitability if design and manufacturing are not taken into consideration up front. However, if the design of the product is over-constrained by manufacturing, this can also result in suboptimal profitability. Therefore a compromise is necessary which leverages existing manufacturing capabilities with rational product changes.
  • In mass customization environment, generally firms produce a portion of their products based on mass production (built-to-stock, stochastic demand) and the remaining portion based on mass customization (built-to-order, deterministic demand). Given these two demand classes in multi-periods, the objective is to derive decision making tools of how many of each component to produce at each period and how to allocate the shared manufacturing resources of dedicated and reconfigurable equipment to produce these components.
  • To achieve efficiency of mass production, repetition is essential. This can be attained through maximizing commonality in design, which leads to reusable tools, equipment, and expertise. The number and diversity of parts and processes reflect the complexity of the product design. This complexity can be measured by a commonality index, which gives an indication of the difficulty in instituting manufacturing, planning, and design systems.
  • Under mass customization context, when a company is producing multiple products, there are a variety of sources of diversity converging to its manufacturing system. The added diversity will in turn increase the complexity and uncertainty to the system until it becomes unstable. Based on Shannon’s information entropy theory, a model is being developed to analyze these complexities and suggest ways to reduce it by coordinating the factors from product design to manufacturing processes.

Project TA1-4: Enterprise Level Supply Chain Management.

The goal of this project is to extend the ERC system-level design methodologies to develop a unified modeling methodology for supply chains. Such a methodology would allow engineers a convenient way of designing, manipulating, and evaluating supply chain planning to achieve the best production and economic performance. This methodology will integrate system level models with transportation, scheduling and inventory control policies. Outputs of the design tool will include system throughput, inventory levels, response times, investment/operating costs and supply chain risk assessment.