Flexible layouts for the mixed-model assembly of heterogeneous vehicles
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The increasing vehicle heterogeneity is pushing the widespread mixed-model assembly line to its limit. The paced, serial design is incapable of coping with the diversity in workloads and task requirements. As an alternative, the automotive industry has started to introduce flexible layouts for segments of the assembly. In flexible layouts, the stations are no longer arranged serially and no longer linked by a paced transportation system but by automated guided vehicles. This paper investigates the initial configuration of such systems. The flexible layout design problem (FLDP) is the problem of designing a flexible layout for a segment of the assembly of heterogeneous vehicles. It comprises an integrated station formation and station location problem. Moreover, the FLDP anticipates the operational flow allocation of the automated guided vehicles. We formalize the FLDP in a mixed-integer linear program and develop a decomposition-based solution approach that can optimally solve small- to mid-sized instances. In addition, we transform this solution approach to a matheuristic that generates high-quality solutions in acceptable time for large-sized instances. We compare the efficiency of flexible layouts to mixed-model assembly lines and quantify the benefits of flexible layouts which increase with vehicle heterogeneity.
KeywordsProduct variety Automotive industry Job shop configuration Cellular design Classification of decision problems
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