This report examines the issue of designing an efficient production system by increasing several types of flexibility. Increasing manufacturing flexibility is a key strategy for efficiently improving market responsiveness in the face of uncertain market demand for final products. The manufacturing system comprises multiple plants, of which individual plants have multiple manufacturing lines that are designed to produce limited types of products in accordance with their size and materials. Imbalance in the workload occurs among plants as well as among manufacturing lines because of fluctuations in market demand for final products. Thereby, idleness of some manufacturing lines and longer lead times in some manufacturing lines occur as a result of the high workload. We clarify how these types of flexibility affect manufacturing performance by improving only one type of flexibility or by improving multiple types of flexibility simultaneously. The average lead time and the imbalance in workload are adopted as measures of manufacturing performance. Three types of manufacturing flexibility are interrelated: machine flexibility, routing flexibility, and process flexibility. Machine flexibility refers to the various types of operations that a machine can perform without requiring the prohibitive effort of switching from one order to another. Routing flexibility is the capability of processing a given set of part types using more than one line (alternative line) in the plant. Process flexibility results from being able to build different types of final products at the same plant.
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