The Role of Simulation Optimization in Process Automation for Discrete Manufacturing Excellence

With increased global competition, shorter product life cycle, and diminishing market boarders, companies are turning to data to better utilize their resources and speed up decision making, while keeping a wholistic view of the effects of real-time reactions. Industrie 4.0 is concerned with how to securely collect information from various sources, and the methods needed to utilize such information to create a Smart Factory that provides competitive advantage.

The goal of PADME is to investigate and demonstrate how the highly-digitalized and proven systems of the process industry, like collaborative process automation systems, can be used in discrete manufacturing to reduce cycle time, increase throughput, and optimize work-in-process levels. One partner in the project, ABB Robotics, is interested in creating a digital twin of its robot manufacturing plant to investigate questions like: which product mixes achieve the highest profit, how does the layout affect the cycle time, what resource allocation removes bottlenecks, and how can we quote better delivery dates given the system variability.

Addressing such questions required a wholistic view of the operations at the shop floor, and simulation was chosen as a tool to help us understand the connections between the various operations. The AnyLogic multimethod simulation software was used to model the assembly line. The work is ongoing and we will focus here on the first part of the project involving the assembly line. In specific, we like to know if the current target processing times, set for the operators, can be lowered and/or made different for each workstation, such that the current throughput is significantly increased while keeping the average queue length per workstation less than or equal to one.


Schematic of the production simulation model developed in AnyLogic manufacturing simulation software

Schematic of the production simulation model developed in AnyLogic manufacturing simulation software

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