Analysis of manufacturing operations using knowledge-enriched aggregate process planning
Knowledge-Enriched Aggregate Process Planning is concerned with the problem of supporting agile design and manufacture by making process planning feedback integral to the design function. A novel Digital Enterprise Technology framework (Maropoulos 2003) provides the technical context and is the basis for the integration of the methods with existing technologies for enterprise-wide product development. The work is based upon the assertion that, to assure success when developing new products, the technical and qualitative evaluation of process plans must be carried out as early as possible. An intelligent exploration methodology is presented for the technical evaluation of the many alternative manufacturing options which are feasible during the conceptual and embodiment design phases. 'Data resistant' aggregate product, process and resource models are the foundation of these planning methods. From the low-level attributes of these models, aggregate methods to generate suitable alternative process plans and estimate Quality, Cost and Delivery (QCD) have been created. The reliance on QCD metrics in process planning neglects the importance of tacit knowledge that people use to make everyday decisions and express their professional judgement in design. Hence, the research also advances the core aggregate planning theories by developing knowledge-enrichment methods for measuring and analysing qualitative factors as an additional indicator of manufacturing performance, which can be used to compute the potential of a process plan. The application of these methods allows the designer to make a comparative estimation of manufacturability for design alternatives. Ultimately, this research should translate into significant reductions in both design costs and product development time and create synergy between the product design and the manufacturing system that will be used to make it. The efficacy of the methodology was proved through the development of an experimental computer system (called CAPABLE Space) which used real industrial data, from a leading UK satellite manufacturer to validate the industrial benefits and promote the commercial exploitation of the research.