A methodology for aggregate assembly modelling and planning
The introduction of Concurrent Engineering highlights the need for a link between the early stages of product design and assembly planning. This thesis presents aggregate assembly process planning as a novel methodology to provide this link. The theory behind the research is to bring all aspects of product development together to consider assembly planning at the conceptual stage of design. Decisions taken during the early design stage not only have the greatest influence on production times and costs, but also should ensure that a design is easy to manufacture and assemble. An automated computer-based system has been developed to implement the methodology. The system generates aggregate assembly process plans which give details of feasible sequences, assembly process times and costs, resource requirements, and factory loadings. The Aggregate Assembly Modelling and Planning (AAMP) system employs object-oriented modelling techniques to represent designs, process planning knowledge, and assembly resources. The minimum information requirements have been identified, and a product model encompassing this data has been developed. An innovative factor of this thesis is to employ Assembly Feature Connections (AFCs) within the product model to represent assembly connectivity. Detailed generic assembly process models, functioning with limited design data, are used to calculate assembly criteria. The introduction of a detailed resource model to represent assembly facilities enables the system to calculate accurate assembly times, dependent on which resources are used within a factory, or even which factory is employed. A new algorithm uses the structure of the product model, process constraints and assembly rules to efficiently generate accurate assembly sequences. Another new algorithm loads the assembly operations onto workstations, ensuring that the capability and capacity are available. The aggregate assembly process planning functionality has been tested using products from industry, and has yielded accurate results that prove to be both technically feasible and realistic. Industrial response has been extremely favourable. Specific comments on the usefulness and simplicity of such a comprehensive system gives encouragement to the concept that aggregate assembly process planning provides the required link between the early stages of product design and assembly planning.