A knowledge-based system for process family planning
Journal article, 2013
Purpose - The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it is to introduce a knowledge-based system for planning processes for families of final products, instead of component items, be they parts or assemblies. Second, it is to demonstrate the feasibility and potential of a prototypical system developed for planning processes families for truck families from a multinational company. Design/methodology/approach - The authors first identify the challenges in planning process families, including data and knowledge representation and constraint handling. To accommodate these challenges, the paper adopts the integrated product and process structure (IP2S) and colored timed Petri nets (CTPNs) in the proposed knowledge-based process family planning system. On top of the IP2S and CTPNs, XML-based knowledge representation is employed to alleviate the difficulties in modelling complex product and process family data and planning knowledge while enabling information exchange across different operating platforms. In addition, in accordance with the correspondence between PNs and knowledge-based systems, a mechanism is designed to cope with the generation of production rules, which model constraints. Findings - The proposed system is able to automatically generate production processes for customized products. At a higher level, such production processes provide input (e.g. operations, machines) to downstream activities for planning process details to manufacture component parts or component assemblies. Research limitations/implications - Traditional trial and error approaches to planning processes limit production performance improvement when companies need to timely produce diverse customized products. Knowledge-based systems should be developed to help companies better plan production processes based on the available manufacturing resources. Originality/value - Unlike most reported studies addressing either detailed process planning or assembly planning for component parts or component assemblies, this study tackles process planning for final products, in attempting to maintain production efficiency from a holistic view.