The structural complexity of a manufacturing system results primarily from the complexity of its equipment and their layout. The balance between both complexity sources can be achieved by searching for the best system granularity level, which yields a manufacturing system with the least overall structural complexity. A new system granularity complexity index is developed to sum up and normalize the complexity resulting from the system layout complexity and the equipment structural complexity. A previously developed layout complexity index together with a code-based structural complexity assessment are used to determine the structural complexity of standalone pieces of equipment and to arrive at a balance between the two sources of complexity. Cladistics analysis is used to hierarchically cluster required pieces of equipment and bundle them into more integrated equipment and machines and demonstrate the possible different system granularity levels. The new developed model is a useful tool to create specific system configuration and layout alternatives based on system components adjacency, and then select the system design with the least overall structural complexity among those alternatives. The results of the presented case study clearly demonstrated this trade-off where decomposing manufacturing systems into a highly granular configuration with standalone machines maximizes system layout complexity and minimizes equipment complexity, while at a low level of granularity pieces of equipment are bundled into complex integrated machines, lines or cells but with a very simple system layout.
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© 2015 The Society of Manufacturing Engineers.