Trends in shop floor control
The current competitive scenario forces firms to improve their manufacturing and service systems in order to
cope with permanent market changes which drives them to seek means of cutting costs without sacrificing the
quality and innovation of their products and services. For many manufacturers the number of base products and
options in their mix has grown enormously, forcing production managers to be prepared to produce a widening
range of different product configurations in lower volumes. Customers, on the other hand, are expecting greater
responsiveness in fulfilling their needs, greater flexibility and permanent cost reductions. To cope with this,
firms need to change the way they manage their operations. Traditional planning and control practices need to be
revised or abandoned and new approaches adopted so firms can achieve the required levels of performance.
The research presented in this thesis is devoted to study the current trends in Shop Floor Control systems. The
shop floor is the place where the real things happen, and its activities involve the factory resources that most
impact on time and costs, and are responsible for adding value to materials and services provided by each
industrial firm. The success of any industrial supply chain management system is ultimately based on the
performance of its shop floor.
The research carried out involved an extensive literature review on SFC theory and practice, and recognised the
gap between operations research (OR) methods and operations management (OM) approaches. Whereas OR is
concerned with finding the optimal solution to mathematically-based scheduling problems and OM seeks to get
the best performance from production resources at a point in time so that a firm's goals are realized. Two
industrial surveys were undertaken with the aim to identify current SFC practices within the batch
manufacturing sector. The findings revealed a gap between what is studied and researched in the SFC field and
its actual practice. There is a significant dissociation between what is being offered by the academic world and
the needs of the industrial practices, being the software houses (providers) somewhere in the middle trying to
introduce new tools or improvement on the existing ones (which in turn continue to offer a limited range of
valuable features that can actually be used by SFC practitioners).
To reinforce the findings from the literature review and the industrial surveying process, a series of case studies
and industrial visits were carried out. The conclusions drawn from this stage show an industrial practice based
on traditional approaches to SFC system, mainly manual and informal systems with fewer or none assistance
from computer-based systems. The dynamics of the industrial environments normally found in industry are not
compatible with available SFC applications. It was demonstrated that most of SFC managers are "eager to find
simple solutions in a complex world".
The research proposed a new reference model to SFC system. The reference model is based on the industrial
experience and in the most proved models to SFC found in the literature. The reference model adopts a systemic
approach to the SFC problem by promoting its integration and synchronization with the firm's supply chain
management system. Another important feature of the proposed reference model was its dependence upon
human-based systems, whereas computer-based applications are proposed as tools (forming a hybrid system).
The simplicity and its practical orientation proved to be an important advantage of the reference model. Several
orientations and guidance is provided when the reference model are to be applied into a practical situation