Assembly system configuration determines the topological arrangement of stations with defined logical material flow among them. The design of assembly system configuration involves (1) subassembly planning that defines subassembly tasks and between-task material flows and (2) workload balancing that determines the task-station assignments. The assembly system configuration should be flexibly changed and updated to cope with product design evolution and updating. However, the uncertainty in future product evolution poses significant challenges to the assembly system configuration design since the higher cost can be incurred if the assembly line suitable for future products is very different from that for the current products. The major challenges include (1) the estimation of reconfiguration cost, (2) unavailability of probability values for possible scenarios of product evolution, and (3) consideration of the impact of the subassembly planning on the task-station assignments. To address these challenges, this paper formulates a concurrent optimization problem to design the assembly system configuration by jointly determining the subassembly planning and task-station assignments considering uncertain product evolution. A new assembly hierarchy similarity model is proposed to estimate the reconfiguration effort by comparing the commonalities among different subassembly plans of current and potential future product designs. The assembly system configuration is chosen by maximizing both assembly hierarchy similarity and assembly system throughput under the worst-case scenario. A case study motivated by real-world scenarios demonstrates the applicability of the proposed method including scenario analysis.

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