Making variability manageable in production
With the growing demand for individualized or configurable products, flexible production and efficient multivarient manufacturing - all the way to lot size one, in other words individualized custom products – are becoming an increasingly important competitive advantage.
Planning an efficient production environment for the manufacture of complex products is already a demanding task however, even without taking into account variability. Products with many variants add another level of difficulty. The first challenge involves the large volume of different information required for the planning process and the capabilities of the production system. Furthermore, the variability of the products and the corresponding processes create an additional dimension of complexity that is difficult, if not impossible, to manually comprehend.
To address this challenge, fortiss defined a model-based method for production planning in Industry 4.0 smart factories under the framework of the Smart Factory IT project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Smart factories are dominated by a completely new manufacturing logic in which products are clearly identifiable and locatable at any time and know their history, the current status and alternative paths to the target state.
With these results as a foundation, fortiss developed the Smart Factory Information Tool (SFIT), which allows the methodology to be applied in a model-based tool. SFIT makes it possible to capture all of the data relevant to the product and the production system in a structured fashion and to precisely analyze the producibility of any product variant. Exactly like the AutoFOCUS3 platform, this open source tool relies on an Eclipse-based kernel tool developed by fortiss.
SFIT not only makes it possible to model products, production processes and systems, but also their variability and possible configurations.
As represented in figure 1, in SFIT the products are modeled through their bill of materials and the respective recipe. Variability can be mapped to product features from a features model in both the bill of materials and the recipe.
By allocating process steps to resources – or deployment – SFIT can analyze all variability in the product and process. The tool offers the flexibility to factor in all product variants, as well as any partial quantities, all the way to individual variants.
Producibility is easy and fast to analyze across different levels of assembly line capacity by identifying issues such as missing or insufficient resources.