Responsiveness to dynamic market changes in a cost-effective manner is becoming a key success factor for any manufacturing system in today’s global economy. Reconfigurable manufacturing systems (RMSs) have been introduced to react quickly and effectively to such competitive market demands through modular and scalable design of the manufacturing system on the system level, as well as on the machine components’ level. This paper investigates how RMSs can manage their capacity scalability on the system level in a cost-effective manner. An approach for modeling capacity scalability is proposed, which, unlike earlier approaches, does not assume that the capacity scalability is simply a function of fixed increments of capacity units. Based on the model, a computer tool that utilizes a genetic algorithm optimization technique is developed. The tool aids the systems’ designers in deciding when to reconfigure the system in order to scale the capacity and by how much to scale it in order to meet the market demand in a cost-effective way. The results showed that, in terms of cost, the optimal capacity scalability schedules in an RMS are superior to both the exact demand capacity scalability approach and the approach of supplying all required capacity at the beginning of the planning period, which is adopted by flexible manufacturing systems (FMSs). The results also suggest that the cost-effective implementation of an RMS can be realized through decreasing the cost of reconfiguration of these new systems.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/adeif/16/