Knowledge based requirements specification for reconfigurable assembly systems
Automated assembly technology may be the key to sustaining manufacturing industry in more developed countries. Currently this comprises dedicated systems that can assemble single products at high volumes and flexible systems to assemble a wide variety of products in low volumes. However, competitive forces demand a compromise between the two and Reconfigurable Assembly Systems are an avenue for achieving high volume and high variety production. Although this technology is coming to the fore, there is a distinct lack of tools and methods that make the prospect attractive to key decision makers in organisations. Reconfigurable solutions, which may be profitable in the long term, are rejected in favour of short term solutions, which prove to be more expensive over time. The benefits of requirements engineering have been exploited in software engineering and this work demonstrates how these can be adapted to an assembly environment to form a new basis for communication between the system vendors, who supply assembly system solutions, and system users, who use them. Knowledge Engineering has become a key aspect in industry due to the challenges of retaining personnel and their knowledge within organisations. This is because employees take their knowledge of the organisation with them when they leave. The retention of this knowledge would help to maintain the continuity within organisations. This thesis reports on research that aims to provide a means to integrate these three aspects to form a basis for sustaining competitive manufacture in more developed countries. Moreover, Knowledge Based Requirements Specification for Reconfigurable Assembly Systems will provide a vital medium for promoting Reconfigurable Assembly Systems and encourage their implementation by providing a knowledge-based platform for the specification of Reconfigurable Assembly Systems.