Chair of Production Management

Mixed-Model Assembly Lines with Variable Takt and Open Stations

POM Journal accepts article by Dr. Tobias Mönch and Prof. Dr. Arnd Huchzermeier

ERIM-Star Journal Production and Operations Management (Wiley) accepts article on Mixed-Model Assembly Lines with Variable Takt and Open Stations by Dr. Tobias Mönch (McKinsey&Company) and Prof. Dr. Arnd Huchzermeier.

Abstract: Industry trends such as product customization, radical innovation, and local production, accelerate the adoption of mixed-model assembly lines that can cope with a widening gap between model processing times and true build to order capability. The existing high work content deviations on such assembly lines stress production planning, especially the assembly line sequencing. Most manufacturers set the launching rate for all assembly line products to a  fixed launching rate resulting in rising utility work and idle time when system load increases. We present an “ideal" variable rate launching case resulting in minimal computation and achieving 100 percent productivity (full elimination of ilde time and utility work) for balanced assembly times and homogenous station lengths. Managers should foster the ideal circumstances where operators need not wait for a preceding task to be completed and product sequence restrictions are eliminated. Thus, enabling unmatched production flexibility. Furthermore, we present a mixed-integer model to analyze both closed and open workstations on a mixed-model assembly line for fixed and variable rate launching. This model incorporates costs not only for labor inefficiencies but also for extending the line length. We present a heuristic solution method when process times and station lengths are heterogeneous and demonstrate that the variable takt dominates the fixed takt. In a numerical, industrial benchmark study, we illustrate, that a variable rate launching strategy with open stations has significantly lower labor costs as well as a substantially reduced total line length and thus lower throughput time.

Link to paper