The sequencing and line balancing of manual mixed-model assembly lines are challenging tasks due to the complexity and uncertainty of operator activities. The control of cycle time and the sequencing of production can mitigate the losses due to non-optimal line balancing in the case of open-station production where the operators can work ahead of schedule and try to reduce their backlog. The objective of this paper is to provide a cycle time control algorithm that can improve the efficiency of assembly lines in such situations based on a specially mixed sequencing strategy. To handle the uncertainty of activity times, a fuzzy model-based solution has been developed. As the production process is modular, the fuzzy sets represent the uncertainty of the elementary activity times related to the processing of the modules. The optimistic and pessimistic estimates of the completion of activity times extracted from the fuzzy model are incorporated into a model predictive control algorithm to ensure the constrained optimization of the cycle time. The applicability of the proposed method is demonstrated based on a wire-harness manufacturing process with a paced conveyor, but the proposed algorithm can handle continuous conveyors as well. The results confirm that the application of the proposed algorithm is widely applicable in cases where a production line of a supply chain is not well balanced and the activity times are uncertain.

Tamás Ruppert, Gyula Dörgő, János Abonyi, Journal of Manufacturing Systems, 2020