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Supporting flexibility in an assembly system through product design
Mälardalen University, School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Innovation and Product Realisation.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3560-9372
2015 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Increasing customer demands for product variety in conjunction with the short lifecycle of products has caused manufacturing companies to introduce a wide range of products by accommodating flexibility. An assembly system is an essential part of the manufacturing system from both cost and time perspectives. Hence, the shift towards flexibility in manufacturing companies highlights the significance of establishing flexible assembly systems and designing products that are closely aligned with them. Despite its significance, however, the flexible assembly system concept and its requirements for product design have not been clearly defined in research and from a practical point of view. Most research on flexible assembly systems has mainly approached either the design or the balancing and scheduling issues of these systems, whereas only a few studies have briefly defined the flexible assembly system they focused on, without further specifying the characteristics of a flexible assembly system and its requirements for product design.

Taking that into account, the objective of this work is to provide a framework to contribute to the understanding of the concept of flexibility in an assembly system and its requirements for product design. In order to fulfil the objective, four empirical studies combined with literature reviews have been conducted. The empirical studies, a multiple case study and three single case studies, investigate the definition of flexibility in an assembly system as well as the requirements that a flexible assembly system imposes on product design.

Through its findings, this research provides a definition of flexibility in assembly systems that mainly revolves around volume, mix and new product flexibility. In addition, six constituents of a flexible assembly system have been identified: adaptable material supply, versatile workforce, increased commonality, standardised work content, integrated product properties and strategic planning. Furthermore, three requirements of a flexible assembly system for product design are defined, which, if fulfilled, reduce the complexity created by product variety and consequently support flexibility in the assembly system. Accordingly, to increase the understanding of the concept of flexibility in an assembly system and its requirements for product design, a four-staged framework is suggested. The proposed framework deals with the activities related to the concept and the development of a flexible assembly system and is expected to be received by assembly practitioners as a link between assembly and product design teams in the product realisation process. Future research can further validate the framework in practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Västerås: Mälardalen University , 2015.
Series
Mälardalen University Press Licentiate Theses, ISSN 1651-9256 ; 206
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Research subject
Innovation and Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-27853ISBN: 978-91-7485-207-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-27853DiVA: diva2:806104
Presentation
2015-06-12, Filen, Mälardalens högskola, Eskilstuna, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2015-04-23 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2015-06-01Bibliographically 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: 2016-12-19Bibliographically 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, (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: 2016-03-24Bibliographically approved
3. Handling product variety in a mixed-product assembly line: A case study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Handling product variety in a mixed-product assembly line: A case study
2015 (English)In: DS 80-4 PROCEEDINGS OF THE 20TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENGINEERING DESIGN (ICED 15) VOL 4: DESIGN FOR X, DESIGN TO X, 2015, Vol. 4, 41-50 p.Conference paper, (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In today’s fast-changing global market, using mixed-product assembly lines (MPALs) and mixed-model assembly lines (MMALs) allows manufacturing companies to be flexible and to maintain their competitive edge through product variety. Balancing and sequencing issues have been recognized as the main challenges of MPALs and MMALs, but other practical needs of MPALs remain unclear. Recognizing the practical needs of MPALs helps in identifying related requirements for product design, leading to products that closely align with the MPAL concept. The objective of this paper is to offer an industrial perspective on the needs of MPALs and to identify its requirements vis-à-vis product design. To achieve this objective, a single real-time case study in a heavy-vehicle-manufacturing company has been performed. The results from this industrial case study suggest that in order to handle product variety in MPALs and to reduce the related complexity, certain dimensions of flexibility need to be created in the assembly system, and requirements related to product design should be considered simultaneously in order to support assembly processes.

Keyword
Mixed-product assembly line; Flexibility; Requirements; Product design; Complexity
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-27849 (URN)000366982900005 ()2-s2.0-84979662973 (Scopus ID)978-1-904670-67-4 (ISBN)
Conference
20th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2015; Bovisa Campus of Politecnico di MilanoMilan; Italy; 27 July 2015 through 30 July 2015
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2016-08-18Bibliographically approved
4. Drivers of complexity in a flexible assembly system- A case study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Drivers of complexity in a flexible assembly system- A case study
2015 (English)Conference paper, (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Various ever-changing market demands have propelled manufacturing companies to offer product variety in an efficient and timely manner. Assembly as a key stage of manufacturing process is used to realise product variety through establishing mixed-product assembly systems. Although establishing a flexible mixed-product assembly system which both offers product variety and absorbs market demands fluctuation is pivotal for maintaining competitive edge in certain industries such as vehicle manufacturing, it is also considered an elaborate task which calls for further investigation. In this paper, complexity in a flexible mixed-product assembly line is investigated and the key drivers of complexity are identified. To fulfil the research objective, a case study during the pilot implementation of a flexible mixed-product assembly concept in a heavy vehicle manufacturing company has been conducted. The results indicate the key factors concerning assembly process, product design, and information and communication technology (ICT) which contribute to complexity in the flexible assembly system. The paper concludes with an outlook for possible future research.

National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-27851 (URN)10.1016/j.procir.2015.12.082 (DOI)000379247600032 ()2-s2.0-84968902339 (Scopus ID)
Conference
CIRP CMS 2015 - 48th CIRP Conference on MANUFACTURING SYSTEMS, 24-26 June 2015, Ischia (Naples), Italy
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2016-08-18Bibliographically approved

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