Adaptation systems, to the domain of industrial assembly.


of Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems for Industrial Assembly – Review of
Flexibility Paradigms, Concepts and Outlook


Paper Review

Mubashir Jaleel

Department of Mechanical
Engineering, College of E&ME NUST



Abstract— The research paper
written by Guido Huettemann, Christian Gaffry and Robert H.Schmitt (2016) has
been reviewed in this paper. The intuition for writing the review is based on a
master’s level class assignment and hence be regarded proportionate to the
knowledge base of the author of this review.

The paper proposes the feasibility of adaptation
of Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMS), designed for machining
systems, to the domain of industrial assembly. Literature review, interviews
and ongoing research on subject have been included / consulted for the proposed
theoretic analysis.

Turbulent market under global competition has
introduced continuously varying products with lesser lot sizes. As the market
demand and requirement of variety increases so does the pressure on
manufacturing systems’ designers to speedily find optimum production solutions
with least changeover and setup durations. This leads to the increased
requirements of reconfigurations in manufacturing systems. Reconfiguration have
been widely researched for machining processes, however present manufacturing
systems don’t have flexibility of Reconfigurable Assembly Systems (RAS)
due to physical constraints of fixed transfer systems for including new
processes. The authors find these limitations as a prompt for new approaches in
manufacturing system design to allow manufacturing system changes.

The authors have elaborated the benefits of RMS proposed by Koren and
Shpitalni (2010). RMS is a combination of throughput of Dedicated Manufacturing
Line (DML) and flexibility of Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS).
Manufacturing system is reconfigurable when it is designed around a part family
with just enough customized flexibility. Suggested machine configurations with
cross overs improve productivity, responsiveness and convertibility. More
machines can be added in cell configuration to increase scalability. Though the
above elaborated proposal mainly focuses on machining systems, however, the
authors find them generally applicable to assembly systems which is plausible
due to characteristics of RMS. Though research on RMS for assembly systems is
undergoing yet its application for industrial assembly is not known.

Reviewed literature
is cited at

After elaborating the benefits and applicability of
RMS, the authors have made a comparison of machining and assembly systems for
concluding the similarities for cross application. Machining assembly systems
differ in that machining processes involve rough parts, tools and transform
them into finished parts, while assembly systems comprise variety of materials
involving finished parts auxiliary materials which are provided just in time (JIT)
and just in sequence (JIS) for efficiency of assembly systems. Machining
systems typically rely on tools and usually have inherent flexibility however
assembly systems are limited by adjustability and exchangeability. Machining
and assembly processes also differ in organizational aspects, divisibility of
processes and duration of tasks.

 After drawing the difference in systems
of machining and assembly, the authors suggested a comparison network for
flexibility paradigms based on two axes, one covering production level and the
other object level that is being assessed. Production levels are based on production
network, factory segment, line and work station while object level includes
production resources, organizational aspects and control scheduling within
those production levels. After the comparison, suitability of these paradigms
for use in industrial assembly was sorted to derive necessary conclusions. The
authors concluded that though RMS fulfil necessary conditions of  flexibility paradigm however remains unable
to incorporate material flow for parts that are to be assembled to the main
product due to limitations of present RMS design for single part material flow.

Since current RMS does not support complex material flow so the authors
suggested further Research and Development (R) for incorporation of RMS
machining concept in industrial assembly. These include Transfer Systems
for efficient omnidirectional routing, Logistics with ability to deliver
required parts in time and materials without causing delays, Scheduling of
assembly tasks and their associated logistic operations and Interoperability
focusing on skill based integration so that new work stations can be added at
any time.

Though the authors referred engine and its major parts as case under
study however the data on their machining, assembly systems and their differences
is not discussed in specific. The authors concluded that the concept of RMS
paradigm is viable for adaptation of complex multi-model assembly lines with
small lot size. Moreover, key areas have been identified for further research
for application in industrial assembly.