Manufacturing Flexibility 




It is in this level where the exchange between the extrinsic and intrinsic environments happens. It is something like the midfield soccer player. He coordinates the attack activity from the defense to the front line, as well as containing the attack of the opposition.

It is in this level where the intrinsic variety is absorbed by the extrinsic variety. Most of this activity is met with sophisticated computer systems, which analyze alternatives like a chess game, to know what is the next move.

Actually, there is no greater contradiction than to say that the present software in the market solves the flexibility needs of manufacturing. As Douglas R. Hofstadter might put it, computers by their very nature are the most inflexible tools in the world. There is no doubt about the validity of this statement; however, he himself explains that there is hope to evolve these branches of science and technology, producing ever more intelligent and flexible computer systems.

We have seen much evolution of manufacturing systems, from the ancient BOMP to MRP II, going through an infinite number of systems, including those who have attempted to apply opera­tional research principles. None of them has had the flexibility to react to the unpredictable environment, to envision a truly syn­chronized manufacturing goal, transforming the management of a plant and its decision taking into a flexible setting.

An answer to this request could be found in the comment made by David Rea, of Weyerhousen Information Systems in Manufac­turing Systems (March 1992): "The challenge is in how to link the upper level MRP systems, with what is really happening at the shop floor level. There has to be an integration between these two, through a system which does dynamically rescheduling of the shop."

Rea describes the synchronized systems, a set of consistent principles, procedures, and techniques that evaluates the action to be taken by each productive cell under the global objectives of the production system. In this way, synchronized manufacturing systems provide to the user the opportunity to take quality and on time decisions, basing the assignment of resources on better service to the customer.

In the hierarchical information structure of CIM, synchronized manufacturing is between level 3, which includes the MRP II type of systems, and level 2, which has those systems dedicated to monitor and control the production processes (see Figure 3). With this setting, it completes the manufacturing strategy, allowing the MRP II systems to do the forecasting, managing, and evaluating the demand and the production in the medium term, entitling the synchronized manufacturing systems to do the synchronization of the production to the demand at the short-term level, and letting techniques like Kanban do the followup in detail of the shop floor execution at the real-time level.

To be Continued


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