Computer integrated manufacturing control
Many manufacturing companies have long endured the problems associated with the presence of `islands of automation'. Due to rapid computerisation, `islands' such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS) and Material Requirement Planning (MRP), have emerged, and with a lack of co-ordination, often lead to inefficient performance of the overall system. The main objective of Computer-Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) technology is to form a cohesive network between these islands. Unfortunately, a commonly used approach - the centralised system approach, has imposed major technical constraints and design complication on development strategies. As a consequence, small companies have experienced difficulties in participating in CIM technology. The research described in this thesis has aimed to examine alternative approaches to CIM system design. Through research and experimentation, the cellular system approach, which has existed in the form of manufacturing layouts, has been found to simplify the complexity of an integrated manufacturing system, leading to better control and far higher system flexibility. Based on the cellular principle, some central management functions have also been distributed to smaller cells within the system. This concept is known, specifically, as distributed planning and control. Through the development of an embryo cellular CIM system, the influence of both the cellular principle and the distribution methodology have been evaluated. Based on the evidence obtained, it has been concluded that distributed planning and control methodology can greatly enhance cellular features within an integrated system. Both the cellular system approach and the distributed control concept will therefore make significant contributions to the design of future CIM systems, particularly systems designed with respect to small company requirements.