Performance Comparison of Some Classes of Flexible Flow Shops and Job Shops

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Flexible manufacturing systems (FMSs) for two-stage production may possess a variety of operating flexibilities in the form of tooling capabilities for the machines and alternative routings for each operation. In this paper, we compare the throughput performance of several flexible flow shop and job shop designs. We consider two-stage assembly flow shops with m parallel machines in stage 1 and a single assembly facility in stage 2. Every upstream operation can be processed by any one of the machines in stage 1 prior to the assembly stage. We also study a similar design where every stage 1 operation is processed by a predetermined machine. For both designs, we present heuristic algorithms with good worst-case error bounds and show that the average performance of these algorithms is near optimal. The algorithms presented are used to compare the performance of the two designs with each other and other related flexible flow shop designs. It is shown, both analytically and experimentally, that the mode of flexibility possessed by a design has implications on the throughput performance of the production system.

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