Material transport system design in manufacturing

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Wan, Yen-Tai
Sharp, Gunter P.
McGinnis, Leon F.
Bodner, Douglas A.
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This dissertation focuses on the material transport system design problem (MTSDP), integrating decisions of technology selection and flow network design. This research is motivated by the design of material transport systems (MTS) in manufacturing plants. The objective is to design a MTS with minimum lifetime costs, subject to service requirements, flow network restrictions, and limited resources. We characterize the MTSDP from the perspectives of task requirements, transport technology, and space utilization. A classification is proposed for transport technologies such that instances in the same class share the same properties, and a decision framework is proposed to emphasize the inter-relationships of three major decisions: task clustering, network connecting, and technology selection. We consider fixed and variable costs, arc capacities, and empty travel in our formulations. We propose two solution approaches for the MTSDP. The first is the compact formulation (CF) approach where the three major decisions are handled by a mixed integer non-linear programming (MINLP) formulation. Relaxation techniques are applied to linearize the model. The solution of the resulting linear formulation (MILP) provides a lower bound to that of MINLP. A tightened formulation reduces the computational time by a factor of 3.85. The experiment also shows that when control system costs are significant, designs with multiple-task clusters are more economical than those restricted to single-task clusters. The other approach is clustering/set partition (CSP), where the three decisions are decomposed and solved sequentially. In an example MTS design problem, three methods are compared: CSP, a GREEDY approach from the literature, and enumeration. CSP finds the optimal solution, while GREEDY results in 31% greater costs. A similar comparison with another example is made for the CF and CSP approaches. We apply the CSP approach in a case problem, using data from an auto parts manufacturer. We include flow path crossing constraints and perform experiments to determine solution quality over a range of small problem sizes. The largest difference from optimality is 3.34%, and the average is 0.98%. More importantly, based on these experiments, it seems there is no evidence that the difference percentage grows with an increase in the number of tasks.
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