This paper considers finding the optimal number of stations for an assembly line producing a limited quantity of a new product under learning conditions. This type of production characterizes heavy products (such as airplanes and communication systems) and science-based industries (e.g. laser cutting devices and special equipment for hospitals). These products are manufactured in assembly line fashion in small batches of a few hundred. Since the products are assumed to be totally new to the workers, the learning phenomenon is significant (i.e. task times decrease from cycle to cycle as experience is gained). Therefore, standard balancing methods are no longer applicable. Determining the number of stations has a large effect on the production rate while the actual assignment of tasks to stations helps to fine tune the cycle time. Thus, the number of stations can be regarded as a strategic decision variable. This paper discusses two ways for determining the optimal number of stations, namely as a cost minimization problem and as a profit maximization problem.
- Assembly lines
- Line balancing