An attribute approach to the measurement of manufacturing system flexibility
An uncertain environment has forced manufacturing systems to have flexibility. Uncertainties involved with internal and external factors means that flexibility becomes an important competitive factor for the firms. However, the concept of manufacturing flexibility has not yet been clearly identified, understood and integrated. These problems have led to researchers and practitioners getting confused and this produces difficulties when trying to implement it. The research in this thesis attempts to clarify and integrate the various aspects of manufacturing flexibility measurement. The objective of the research was to develop theoretical models to quantify the measurement with mathematical mechanisms. A consolidated and synthesized approach, defined as the attribute approach is proposed in this thesis. This leads to a unified framework for flexibility measurement. Vague concepts together with arbitrarily used terminology has led to confusion in concept and contradictions in manufacturing flexibility research. Omissions that appeared in the literature have been identified and remedied in this research. Ten types of flexibility attributes have been proposed and applied to six types of manufacturing flexibility. By exploring of all ten types of flexibility attribute, it has been possible to clarify the confused arguments found in the literature. The main advantage of the attribute approach is its thorough treatment of flexibility measurement. It has provided a conceptually understandable and theoretically precise method of measuring manufacturing flexibility. It also points to new directions for further research in this field. It is hoped that this thesis has pushed forward the frontier of knowledge in this field.