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Flexibility in assembly systems using product design
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Innovation and Product Realisation.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3560-9372
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Growing customer demands for product variety, new and rapid technological developments, and the short life cycle of products characterise the current volatile market. To maintain a competitive edge in the market, manufacturing companies need to accommodate flexibility in their assembly systems that are essential parts of the manufacturing systems with respect to cost, time, and creating product variety. Given the importance of establishing flexible assembly systems, the complexity raised by increasing product variety and the value of appropriate product designs to assembly systems highlight the pivotal role of product design in a flexible assembly system. Despite its significance to theory and practice, however, the characteristics of flexibility in an assembly system and its links to product design are still ambiguous and unexplored.

The objective of this thesis is to expand the current knowledge of flexibility in assembly systems and using product design to support its achievement. To accomplish the objective and by adopting an interactive research approach, five case studies were conducted in the heavy machinery manufacturing industry. A literature review underpins all the case studies comprising one multiple and four single case studies.

Through its findings, this research defines flexibility in an assembly system, identifies its dimensions, and pinpoints its enablers. Additionally, three requirements of a flexible assembly system for product design are identified: a common assembly sequence, similar assembly interfaces, and common parts. These requirements, if fulfilled in product design across distinct product families, reduce the perceived complexity and support various flexibility dimensions in the assembly system. Moreover, the development of a common assembly sequence and similar assembly interfaces, as the two key requirements of a flexible assembly system for product design, is described.

Further, based upon developing understanding and knowledge about a flexible assembly system and its requirements for product design, a model and a framework are proposed. The model addresses the role of product design in achieving flexibility in an assembly system. To support the alignment of product design with the key requirements of a flexible assembly system during the product design process, the assembly-oriented framework details the development of these requirements. Through its outcomes, this thesis contributes to the research area of flexible assembly systems and sheds light on its interface with the engineering design field. Moreover, the proposed model and framework aim to assist assembly practitioners and product designers in establishing a flexible assembly system and aligning product design with its key requirements.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University Press , 2017.
Series
Mälardalen University Press Dissertations, ISSN 1651-4238 ; 244
National Category
Engineering and Technology Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Research subject
Innovation and Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-37176ISBN: 978-91-7485-356-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-37176DiVA: diva2:1154177
Public defence
2017-12-15, Raspen, Eskilstuna, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-11-01 Created: 2017-11-01 Last updated: 2017-11-17Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The Essential Constituents of Flexible Assembly Systems: A Case Study in the Heavy Vehicle Manufacturing Industry
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Essential Constituents of Flexible Assembly Systems: A Case Study in the Heavy Vehicle Manufacturing Industry
2015 (English)In: Global Journal of Flexible Systems Management, ISSN 0972-2696, Vol. 16, no 3, 235-250 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The major challenge of today’s manufacturing industry in tackling demands for a wider range of products with short life-cycle times and meeting customisation requirements has drawn considerable attention towards flexibility in manufacturing systems. As a prominent part of a manufacturing system, an assembly system provides a platform for increasing efficiency while delivering various market demands. However, owing to the dearth of a unified and clear definition of the constituents of flexible assembly systems, in both theory and practice, the recognition of flexibility in assembly systems still remains elusive. In order to establish a sound base for discussing the constituents of flexible assembly systems, this research paper explores the literature concerning flexibility in manufacturing and assembly as well as in flexible systems management domains. To reflect an industrial perspective, a multiple case study of five manufacturing plants in the heavy vehicle industry is performed. By identifying six essential constituents of flexibility in assembly systems, the study proposes a clear definition of flexibility in assembly systems which mainly revolves around mix and volume flexibility. To further enhance the findings, the compatibility of a few previously identified types of manufacturing flexibility in the assembly systems of the case plants is investigated and additional dimensions of flexibility in assembly systems are revealed. Finally, the implications for theory and practice as well as suggestions for future research are discussed.

National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-27850 (URN)10.1007/s40171-015-0096-y (DOI)2-s2.0-84938580397 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2017-11-01Bibliographically approved
2. Considering assembly requirement specifications in product development: identification and approach
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Considering assembly requirement specifications in product development: identification and approach
2014 (English)In: FAIM 2014 - Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Flexible Automation and Intelligent Manufacturing: Capturing Competitive Advantage via Advanced Manufacturing and Enterprise Transformation, 2014, 969-976 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Due to the major advantages such as reduced time to market and improved quality at lowered cost, the principles of design for assembly capabilities and concurrent engineering are of great significance when developing new products. However, identifying assembly requirement specifications and considering them in New Product Development (NPD) in a timely manner, while securing efficiency and robustness of assembly processes, still remains a challenging task. In presenting a case study of an NPD project in a manufacturing company, this article focuses on the process of capturing and incorporating the requirements related to the assembly system during the early phases of NPD. Further, the results of the research study indicate the different assembly requirements in the case company and pinpoint the challenges in practices involved in handling them. The assembly requirements identified in this research reflect some of the challenges encountered in handling the requirements, through the investigated requirement practice. Based on the results, the issues of when and how to consider the assembly requirements are highlighted in the conclusions and suggestions for future research are made.

National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-27845 (URN)2-s2.0-84960875555 (Scopus ID)9781605951737 (ISBN)
Conference
24th International Conference on Flexible Automation and Intelligent Manufacturing (FAIM), May 20-23, 2014, San Antonio, Texas, USA
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2017-11-01Bibliographically approved
3. Linking product design to flexibility in an assembly system: A case study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Linking product design to flexibility in an assembly system: A case study
2017 (English)In: Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, ISSN 1741-038X, E-ISSN 1758-7786, Vol. 28, no 5, 610-630 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - The recent shift towards accommodating flexibility in manufacturing companies and the complexity resulting from product variety highlight the significance of flexible assembly systems and designing products for them. The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into the requirements of a flexible assembly system for product design from the assembly system's standpoint. Design/methodology/approach - To fulfil the purpose of the paper, a literature review and a case study were performed. The case study was conducted with an interactive research approach in a global market leader company within the heavy vehicle manufacturing industry. Findings - The findings indicate that common assembly sequence, similar assembly interfaces, and common parts are the main requirements of a flexible assembly system for product design which reduce complexity and facilitate various flexibility dimensions. Accordingly, a model is proposed to broaden the understanding of these requirements from the assembly system's standpoint. Research limitations/implications - This study contributes to the overlapping research area of flexible assembly systems and product design. Practical implications - The proposed model is largely based on practical data and clarifies the role of product design in facilitating flexibility in an assembly system. It can be used by assembly managers, assembly engineers, and product designers. Originality/value - The key originality of this paper compared to the previous studies lies in presenting a novel assembly-oriented design model. The model enhances understanding of a flexible assembly system's requirements for product design with regard to reducing complexity and managing variation in a flexible assembly system. These requirements can be applied to product design across various product families within a company's product portfolio.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Ltd., 2017
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-36201 (URN)10.1108/JMTM-10-2016-0144 (DOI)000406799400003 ()2-s2.0-85026320035 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2017-08-10 Created: 2017-08-10 Last updated: 2017-11-01Bibliographically approved
4. Towards Establishing Similar Assembly Interfaces for a Mixed-product Assembly System
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards Establishing Similar Assembly Interfaces for a Mixed-product Assembly System
2016 (English)In: Procedia CIRP, 2016, 635-640 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Developing a mixed-product assembly line (MPAL) is an elaborate task due to the complexity raised by product variety. This paper proposes that securing similar assembly interfaces across distinct product families is an essential requirement of MPALs which facilitates flexibility and reduces complexity. The concept of similar assembly interfaces has been developed and analysed in a case study at a heavy vehicle manufacturing company. The results suggest that assembly interfaces can be defined according to generic assembly operation steps: pick, place and attach. The paper highlights the need for development of a cross-functional methodology to analyse and establish similar assembly interfaces.

Keyword
complexity, Flexibility, mixed-product assembly line, product design, product variety, Assembly machines, Assembly operations, Cross-functional, Heavy vehicle, Product assembly, Product families, Assembly
National Category
Mechanical Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-33202 (URN)10.1016/j.procir.2016.04.161 (DOI)000387666600107 ()2-s2.0-84986600139 (Scopus ID)
Conference
26th CIRP Design Conference, 2016, 15 June 2016 through 17 June 2016
Available from: 2016-09-22 Created: 2016-09-22 Last updated: 2017-11-01Bibliographically approved
5. An assembly-oriented product design methodology to develop similar assembly operations in a mixed-product assembly line
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An assembly-oriented product design methodology to develop similar assembly operations in a mixed-product assembly line
2017 (English)In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED, Design Society , 2017, no DS87-5, 131-140 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

With the growing demands for product variety, Mixed-Product Assembly Lines (MPALs) as an effective means of creating product variety are recently increasing in manufacturing companies. However, handling different products from distinct product families creates high complexity in performing assembly operations in an MPAL. The elevated complexity, calls for increased similarity between assembly operations in an MPAL which requires product design changes accordingly. Hence, the objective of this paper is to suggest an assembly-oriented product design methodology to increase similar assembly operations for various products cross-product families. The proposed methodology uses Interface Diagram, a product architecture modelling tool, for comparing assembly operations crossproduct families, suggesting an assembly-oriented design, and communicating it to designers. The methodology has been developed by conducting a case study in heavy vehicle manufacturing industry. The results highlight a visual approach towards establishing a common language between assembly and design teams to consider the requirements of an MAPL in product design.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Design Society, 2017
National Category
Design Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-36677 (URN)2-s2.0-85029796467 (Scopus ID)
Conference
21st International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2017, 21 August 2017 through 25 August 2017
Available from: 2017-10-06 Created: 2017-10-06 Last updated: 2017-11-01Bibliographically approved
6. Implications of realising mix flexibility in assembly systems for product modularity - a case study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Implications of realising mix flexibility in assembly systems for product modularity - a case study
(English)In: Journal of manufacturing systems, ISSN 0278-6125, E-ISSN 1878-6642Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-37170 (URN)
Available from: 2017-11-01 Created: 2017-11-01 Last updated: 2017-11-01

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The full text will be freely available from 2017-11-24 08:00
Available from 2017-11-24 08:00

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