Walking-worker assembly lines can be regarded as an effective method to achieve the above-mentioned characteristics. In such systems, workers, following each other, travel workstations in sequence by performing all of the required tasks of their own product. As the eventual stage of assembly line design, efforts should be made for capacity adjustments to meet the demand in terms of allocating tasks to workers via assembly line balancing. In this context, the purpose of this study is to address the balancing problem for multi-model walking-worker assembly systems, with the aim of improving planning capability for such systems by means of developing an optimization methodology.
Two linear integer programming models are proposed to balance a multi-model walking-worker assembly line optimally in a sequential manner. The first mathematical programming model attempts to determine number of workers in each segment (i.e. rabbit chase loop) for each model. The second model generates stations in each segment to smooth workflow. What is more, heuristic algorithms are provided due to computational burden of mathematical programming models. Two segment generation heuristic algorithms and a station generation heuristic algorithm are provided for the addressed problem.
The application of the mathematical programming approach improved the performance of a tap-off box assembly line in terms of number of workers (9.1 per cent) and non-value-added time ratio (between 27.9 and 26.1 per cent for different models) when compared to a classical assembly system design. In addition, the proposed approach (i.e. segmented walking-worker assembly line) provided a more convenient working environment (28.1 and 40.8 per cent shorter walking distance for different models) in contrast with the overall walking-worker assembly line. Meanwhile, segment generation heuristics yielded reduction in labour requirement for a considerable number (43.7 and 49.1 per cent) of test problems. Finally, gaps between the objective values and the lower bounds have been observed as 8.3 per cent (Segment Generation Heuristic 1) and 6.1 (Segment Generation Heuristic 2).
The proposed study presents a decision support for walking-worker line balancing with high level of solution quality and computational performance for even large-sized assembly systems. That being the case, it contributes to the management of real-life assembly systems in terms of labour planning and ergonomics. Owing to the fact that the methodology has the potential of reducing labour requirement, it will present the opportunity of utilizing freed-up capacity for new lines in the start-up period or other bottleneck processes. In addition, this study offers a working environment where skill of the workers can be improved within reasonable walking distances.
To the best knowledge of the author, workload balancing on multi-model walking-worker assembly lines with rabbit chase loop(s) has not yet been handled. Addressing this research gap, this paper presents a methodology including mathematical programming models and heuristic algorithms to solve the multi-model walking-worker assembly line balancing problem for the first time.
Cevikcan, E. (2016), "An optimization methodology for multi model walking-worker assembly systems: an application from busbar energy distribution systems", Assembly Automation, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 439-459. https://doi.org/10.1108/AA-09-2015-072
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