Grouping and selecting products: the design key of Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMSs)

R. Abdi, Ashraf Labib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A Reconfigurable Manufacturing System (RMS) is a new paradigm that focuses on manufacturing a high variety of products at the same system. Having specified a design strategy for an RMS as the first design step at the tactical level, products must be grouped to identify and allocate corresponding manufacturing facilities. An interface between market and manufacturing called reconfiguration link is presented to specify and arrange products for manufacturing. The reconfiguration link incorporates the tasks of determining the products in the production range, grouping them into families and selecting the appropriate family at each configuration stage. The proposed approach of (re)configuring products before manufacturing facilitates assigning product families to the required manufacturing facilities in terms of (re)configuring manufacturing systems. This paper contributes an overall approach of grouping products into families based on operational similarities, when machines are still not identified. Since the problem of product family selection consists of quantitative and qualitative objectives, the Analytical Hierarchical Process (AHP) is then used while considering both market and manufacturing requirements. The AHP model is verified in an industrial case study through using Expert Choice software. The solutions take advantage of monitoring sensitivity analysis while changing the priorities of manufacturing and/or market criteria. The concept of the proposed model is generic in structure and applicable to many firms. However, the model must be adapted according to the specific nature of the company under study. For instance, product family choices may differ from one company to another because of the available technology and the volume and type of existing products in the production range.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-546
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Production Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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