The design of a support department simulator for use in the design of manufacturing systems
Jackson, Andrew T.
Manufacturing firms are driven by competitive pressures to continually improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their organisations. For this reason, manufacturing engineers often implement changes to existing processes, or design new production facilities, with the expectation of making further gains in manufacturing system performance. This thesis relates to how the likely outcome of this type of decision should be predicted prior to its implementation. The thesis argues that since manufacturing systems must also interact with many other parts of an organisation, the expected performance improvements can often be significantly hampered by constraints that arise elsewhere in the business. As a result, decision-makers should attempt to predict just how well a proposed design will perform when these other factors, or 'support departments', are taken into consideration. However, the thesis also demonstrates that, in practice, where quantitative analysis is used to evaluate design decisions, the analysis model invariably ignores the potential impact of support functions on a system's overall performance. A more comprehensive modelling approach is therefore required. A study of how various business functions interact establishes that to properly represent the kind of delays that give rise to support department constraints, a model should actually portray the dynamic and stochastic behaviour of entities in both the manufacturing and non-manufacturing aspects of a business. This implies that computer simulation be used to model design decisions but current simulation software does not provide a sufficient range of functionality to enable the behaviour of all of these entities to be represented in this way. The main objective of the research has therefore been the development of a new simulator that will overcome limitations of existing software and so enable decision-makers to conduct a more holistic evaluation of design decisions. It is argued that the application of object-oriented techniques offers a potentially better way of fulfilling both the functional and ease-of-use issues relating to development of the new simulator. An object-oriented analysis and design of the system, called WBS/Office, are therefore presented that extends to modelling a firm's administrative and other support activities in the context of the manufacturing system design process. A particularly novel feature of the design is the ability for decision-makers to model how a firm's specific information and document processing requirements might hamper shop-floor performance. The simulator is primarily intended for modelling make-to-order batch manufacturing systems and the thesis presents example models created using a working version of WBS/Office that demonstrate the feasibility of using the system to analyse manufacturing system designs in this way.
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