The classical studies on manufacturing system design and line balancing have often focused on a single generation of products, thus leading to new design or re-balancing when a new generation of products is introduced. As the life-cycles of product models become shorter and shorter, this ‘new products then new system-design’ approach is becoming increasingly ineffective due to too frequent production interruption. Therefore, effective solutions to system-design problems should consider products of multiple generations. This paper presents new methods to design manufacturing systems for products evolving over several generations. Mixed integer programming models are developed for (1) designing system configurations that are cost-effective for uncertain product evolution, and (2) maximizing the recurrences of a task on the same machine throughout product generations. A decomposition-based solution procedure is also proposed to reduce computational complexity. These new methods can provide a system design solution enabling quick product launches with less line change-over for new products.

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