Changing and Evolving Products and Systems – Models and Enablers
Many manufacturing challenges emerged due to the proliferation of products variety caused by products evolution and customization. They require responsiveness in all manufacturing support functions to act as effective enablers of change. This Chapter summarizes some recent findings by the author and coresearchers that address these issues.A variation hierarchy for product variants, from part features to products portfolios, was presented and discussed. The evolution of products and manufacturing systems is discussed and linked, for the first time, to the evolution witnessed in nature. The concept of evolving families for varying parts and products is presented. A biological analogy was used in modeling of products evolution and Cladistics was used for its classification. This novel approach was applied to the design of assembly systems layouts with the objective of rationalizing and delaying products differentiation and managing their variations. Process planning is part of the “soft” or “logical” enablers of change in manufacturing as the link between products and their processing steps. New perspectives on process planning for changing and evolving products and production systems are presented. Process-neutral and process-specific products variations were identified and defined. A recently developed innovative, and fundamentally different, method for Reconfiguring Process Plans (RPP) and new metrics for their evaluation are presented and their significance and applicability in various domains are summarized. The merits of reconfiguring process plans on-the-fly for managing the complexity and extensive variations in products families, platforms and portfolios are highlighted and compared with the traditional re-planning and pre-planning approaches. The conclusions shed light on the increasing challenges due to variations and changes in products and their manufacturing systems and the need for effective solutions and more research in this field.
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