Aspects of the design and control of manufacturing systems subject to demand uncertainty
The recent explosive growth in advanced manufacturing technology (AMT) and continued development of sophisticated information technologies (IT) is expected to have a profound effect on the way we design and operate manufacturing businesses. Furthermore, the escalating capital requirements associated with these developments have significantly increased the level of risk associated with initial design, ongoing development and operation. This dissertation has examined the integration of two key sub-elements of the Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) system, namely the manufacturing facility and the production control system. This research has concentrated on the interactions between production control (MRP) and an AMT based production facility. The disappointing performance of such systems has been discussed in the context of a number of potential technological and performance incompatibilities between these two elements. It was argued that the design and selection of operating policies for both is the key to successful integration. Furthermore, policy decisions are shown to play an important role in matching the performance of the total system to the demands of the marketplace. It is demonstrated that a holistic approach to policy design must be adopted if successful integration is to be achieved. It is shown that the complexity of the issues resulting from such an approach required the formulation of a structured design methodology. Such a methodology was subsequently developed and discussed. This combined a first principles approach to the behaviour of system elements with the specification of a detailed holistic model for use in the policy design environment. The methodology aimed to make full use of the `low inertia' characteristics of AMT, whilst adopting a JIT configuration of MRP and re-coupling the total system to the market demands. This dissertation discussed the application of the methodology to an industrial case study and the subsequent design of operational policies. Consequently a novel approach to production control resulted. A central feature of which was a move toward reduced manual intervention in the MRP processing and scheduling logic with increased human involvement and motivation in the management of work-flow on the shopfloor. Experimental results indicated that significant performance advantages would result from the adoption of the recommended policy set.