An intelligent production planning system for small orders and product customisation is bringing SMEs into the age of new technology.
SMEs can suffer from the double disadvantage of small orders, which demand greater flexibility in planning production, together with a lack of resources to invest in management systems. CIM-REFLEX has developed an intelligent production planning system to facilitate the timely and flexible execution of small production batches. To make the solution as cost-effective as possible, it has been designed to fully integrate with existing IT systems, and uses standard hardware and operating systems.
Faster than standard manufacturing resource planning (MRP) systems, CIM-REFLEX uses a rule-based approach, similar to chess-playing software, to support plan changes. Such actions may be instigated by a human controller, or as an automatic response to changes reported via a CIM-REFLEX terminal or bar-code. This enables employees on the shopfloor to bring their knowledge to bear by getting involved in problem-solving and work scheduling.
Constraints on time and capital investments in SMEs mean that they are generally slower than their larger competitors to benefit from technological advances. On the other hand, with smaller orders and the capacity to customise, they stand to benefit greatly from the improved manufacturing efficiency that can be obtained through using a computer management system. CIM-REFLEX provides a solution that can be easily implemented on standard hardware and operating systems. It offers significant improvements in the efficiency of the manufacturing process and assessment of customer orders, and hence in the flexibility and accuracy that can be offered to the customer.
The system comprises a number of independent modules linked together through a common database. The Computer Aided Production Scheduling (CAPS) module generates a production plan, which is updated and graphically displayed in real time. The Configuration (CONFIG) module evaluates customers' orders against its known manufacturing processes to estimate the feasibility of an order, and where necessary to offer alternatives. The Cost Estimation (COST) module takes data from the previous two modules and derives a cost estimate for the order, allowing the customer to have a realistic price estimate. Finally, the PERT module generates a process flow scenario for the order.
The CIM-REFLEX system has been implemented with great success in several companies, from small SMEs to very large enterprises. At ARTIX Ltd in the UK, bottlenecks in the production of articulated trucks were alleviated by the more efficient planning of the dispatch area, where customisation is carried out. Strecon technology, a manufacturer of pre-stressed containers, has found the system so effective that it has been adopted on a commercial basis.
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Research Area Integration in Manufacturing
Keywords CIM; control systems, embedded;
|Artix Ltd UK|
|Copenhagen Business School DK|
|Danfoss A/S DK|
|Prolog Development Centre DK|
|Sunderland Polytechnic UK|
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