In the competitive field of metalworking industry, the planning of manufacturing systems so as to maximise their performance is crucial. The relatively new field of Flexible Manufacturing Systems presents a new set of planning challenges to the production engineer. This is due to the integrated nature of the these systems and the resultant effects upon their performance. This thesis presents a structured approach to the planning of materials flow within these systems and develops it by the analysis of several proposed manufacturing systems. The approach is based upon the use of mathematical and discrete event simulation techniques. The thesis gives the background to the need for a structured approach, investigates the parallel development of simulation languages and related techniques as applied to manufacturing facilities planning; and of the Flexible Manufacturing Systems themselves. The approach is then detailed and some specific types of planning tool are identified as suitable for use at each project stage. The effects upon the system of the integration of separate units, especially in low work in progress environments, are discussed in some detail. The methodology developed is then used in the context of three projects, specifically developing the theme of automated tool handling and the requirements that it places upon other aspects of a manufacturing system. The projects cover the analysis of pooling strategies, a key factor in determining tool magazine sizes and handling capacity/frequency demands; an academic analysis of a system with both component and tool handling systems; and an advanced Flexible Manufacturing System, also with both automated component and tool handling, which is currently being installed. Conclusions are presented at each stage, and these are drawn together to form a foundation for the planning of materials flow within Flexible Manufacturing Systems in general. Finally, suggestions are made for future work to develop the analysis
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