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A comparative examination of
selected cellular
manufacturing clustering
algorithms
Chun Hung Cheng
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Ashok Kumar and Jaideep Motwani
Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, USA
Introduction
The traditional approach to machine layout in a factory is process-oriented.
Normally, each section of a factory specializes in a particular process. Parts
requiring more than one process are transported from one section to another to
complete their operation requirements.
The primary disadvantage of this layout is the long and uncertain
throughput time resulting in high work-in-process costs, significant inventory
holding costs, untimely product deliveries, and increasing loss of sales[1].
Cellular manufacturing, an alternate layout to improving manufacturing
productivity, exploits the underlying commonality between parts and
manufacturing processes. With more effective design rationalization and
manufacturing standardization, the efficiency associated with flow-line
production is achieved, while the flexibility of a job shop manufacturing system
is maintained.
These features are essential for a firm to remain competitive in the current
manufacturing environment, in which more special orders are demanded,
production life cycles are reduced, and competition is focused on factors like
delivery speed, quality, design flexibility, delivery reliability, as well as price.
Firms have to manufacture products in a larger product mix, smaller volume,
increased part complexity, and shorter production period. Cellular
manufacturing, with its promises to reduce lead time, material handling, set-up
time, expediting, work-in-process and finished goods inventories, was
developed as an approach to address the difficulties faced by today’s
manufacturing industry.
In cellular manufacturing, a firm’s manufacturing system is organized into
machine cells. Each machine cell includes a number of dissimilar machines to
process a family of parts. Therefore, the initial step in designing a cellular
International Journal of Operations
&Production Management, Vol. 15
No. 12, 1995, pp. 86-97. ©MCB
University Press, 0144-3577
Received July 1994
Revised November 1994
This research was partially supported by RGCDirect Grant for Research, Hong Kong.
Cellular
manufacturing
algorithms
87
manufacturing system is the identification of part families and formation of
machine cells to process them.
In an ideal situation, all operations of parts in a part family are completed
within a machine cell. However, a fully independent layout is rare in practice.
In most layouts, the degree of independence is restricted by exceptional parts
and exceptional machines. An exceptional part requires processing on
machine(s) belonging to more than one machine cell. An exceptional machine
processes parts from more than one part family. An exceptional machine arises
because the machine is unique or the utilization of the machine has to be
increased. To implement cellular manufacturing, a good cell formation
algorithm must produce a part and machine grouping that maximizes the
degree of independence.
The grouping result produced by a cell formation algorithm suggests an
initial layout. Before the layout is used, the capital cost, the utilization of
machines, and the degree of independence of the layout must be carefully
scrutinized.
Classification and coding systems are the traditional tools used to implement
cellular manufacturing. A classification and coding system allows one to assign
codes to parts. Based on these codes, parts can be grouped into part families[2].
The disadvantage of a classification and coding system is that it is time-
consuming to code parts. Also parts of similar size, shape, and function may not
use the same set of machine tools and other resources. Recent research has
therefore emphasized the use of cluster analysis[1].
Cluster analysis identifies similar and dissimilar object features and groups
objects into homogeneous groups based on the object features. An underlying
assumption is that homogeneous clusters exist in raw data. The task in
cluster analysis is to develop efficient and effective clustering algorithms to
identify homogeneous clusters. Unlike classification and coding systems,
cluster analysis uses only information that is available in a production
system.
This article studies the application of cluster analysis algorithms for forming
part families and machine cells. Both standard and generalized cell
manufacturing models are discussed. In addition, this article compares the
effectiveness of selected algorithms.
Standard models
A standard model ignores many manufacturing factors and only considers
machining operations of parts. In a standard model, a binary machine-part
incidence matrix [a
ij
] represents a manufacturing system. A matrix entry “1”
(“0”) indicates that machine i is used (not used) to process part j.
When a machine-part incidence matrix [a
ij
] is constructed, it does not
display clusters of machines and parts. A clustering algorithm must
transform the initial incidence matrix to one with a structure. To illustrate
the clustering concept, consider machine-part incidence matrix 1 (see
Figure 1).
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Matrix 1 displays no identifiable clusters. However, by rearranging rows and
columns in matrix 1, a matrix with a diagonal block structure can be produced
(matrix 2), as shown in Figure 2.
Two diagonal clusters are visible in matrix 2. There are two machine cells
(MC-1 = {M2, M4} and MC-2 = {M1, M3}), and two corresponding part families
(PF-1 = {P1, P3} and PF-2 = {P2, P4, P5}). The mutually separable clusters in
matrix 2 are rare in real problems. Matrices 3 and 4 (Figures 3 and 4) illustrate
more realistic examples.
Matrix 3 does not decompose into mutually separable clusters because of
part 5. A group technology (GT) clustering algorithm may produce the
following solution: two machine cells (MC-1 = {M1, M2} and MC-2 = {M3,
Figure 2.
Matrix 2
P1 P3 P2 P4 P5
Parts
M2
M4
M1
M3
M
A
C
H
I
N
E
S
1 1
1 1
1 1
1
1
1
PF-1 PF-2
MC-1
MC-2
Figure 1.
Matrix 1
P1 P2 P3 P4 P5
Parts
M1
M2
M3
M4
M
A
C
H
I
N
E
S
1 1 1
1 1
1 1
1 1
Cellular
manufacturing
algorithms
89
M4}), and two part families (PF-1 = {P1, P2} and PF-2 = {P3, P4, P5}). In this
cell layout, part 5 needs to travel between machine cells to complete all its
operation requirements. The two clusters formed in this manner are partially
separable clusters. Part 5 is an exceptional part. Similarly, matrix 4 cannot be
decomposed because of an exceptional machine. In this matrix, machine 3 is
assigned to machine cell MC-2. Part 2 is required to travel to the other machine
cell for processing.
Figure 3.
Matrix 3
P1 P2 P3 P4 P5
Parts
M1
M2
M3
M4
M
A
C
H
I
N
E
S
1 1
1 1
1 1
1
1
1
PF-1 PF-2
MC-1
MC-2
1
Figure 4.
Matrix 4
P1 P2 P3 P4 P5
Parts
M1
M2
M3
M4
M5
M
A
C
H
I
N
E
S
1 1
1 1
1
1
1
1
1
PF-1 PF-2
MC-1
MC-2 1
1
1 1
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90
Limitations of standard models
A standard model uses a binary incidence matrix. It ignores many
manufacturing factors such as part demand, the sequence of operations in a
part routeing, and the cost of transporting a part between machine cells.
A standard model is too simple for practical applications. For example,
consider machine-part incidence matrix 4. Both parts 2 and 3 require machine
3. Assigning machine 3 to either machine cell 1 or 2 creates an intercellular
move. Without taking into account the manufacturing factors mentioned above,
a standard model often fails to provide clear guidelines for machine assignment
in many circumstances.
In matrix 5 (Figure 5), if part demand is known, machine 3 should be
assigned to machine cell 1 when the demand for part 2 is higher than part 3.
On the other hand, if the cost of transporting a part between machine cells is
known, machine 3 should be assigned to machine cell 2 when it is more costly
to transport part 3 than part 2.
Another manufacturing factor that is important to the machine assignment
problem is the sequence of operations in part routeings. Suppose routeings of
parts 2 and 3 are known and are given as follows:
P2: M1 →M3 →M2, and
P3: M4 →M5 →M3.
If machine cell 2 has machine 3, part 2 will be transported twice between
machine cells. Therefore, it is better to assign machine 3 to machine cell 1 so
that part 3 is only moved once between machine cells.
Figure 5.
Matrix 5
P1 P2 P3 P4 P5
Parts
M1
M2
M3
M4
M5
M
A
C
H
I
N
E
S
1 1
1 1
1
1
1 1
PF-1 PF-2
MC-1
MC-2
1
1
1 1
Cellular
manufacturing
algorithms
91
An entry in a machine-part incidence matrix only indicates whether a machine
is used to process a part, not the number of times a machine is needed. However,
a machine may be used more than once to process a part. Consider the following
routeings of parts 2 and 3:
P2: M1 →M3 →M2 →M3, and
P3: M4 →M3 →M5.
Since machine 3 is used twice to process part 2, it should be placed in machine
cell 1. However, a standard model may assign machine 3 to either machine cell
1 or 2.
Performance of clustering algorithms
Several attempts have been made to compare various clustering approaches.
Chu and Tsai[3] compare the performance of three array-based clustering
techniques. The Miltenburg and Zhang[4] analysis is restricted to array-based
clustering techniques, similarity coefficient based techniques, and seed-based
techniques. Seifoddini[5] only examines two similarity coefficient based
techniques. Cheng[6] studies several different clustering techniques but
excludes neural network and integer programming approaches. This section
presents a more comprehensive comparison.
To illustrate the effectiveness of clustering algorithms for a binary machine-
part incidence matrix, consider the problem represented by matrix 6 (Figure 6).
Although several example matrices are available in the literature, many of them
have either exceptional parts or exceptional machines. These matrices cannot
be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a clustering algorithm in dealing with a
general problem. However, matrix 6 is a real-life example in which there are
exceptional parts and exceptional machines.
Many different solutions are generated to matrix 6. The desirable solution is
given in matrix 7 (Figure 7). Five clusters with three exceptional parts and two
exceptional machines are identified in matrix 7. Since the standard model
ignores many manufacturing factors, its solution at best provides a rough
layout. Before the actual layout is planned, the rough layout has to be evaluated
Figure 6.
Matrix 6
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 4
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1 1 1
1 1
1 1 1 1
1
1
1
1
1 1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1 1
1 1 1 1
1 1
1
1 1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1
1 1 1
1 1
1
1
1 1 1 1 1
1 1
1
1
1 1
1
1 1 1 1
1
1
1
1
1
1 1
1 1
1
1
1 1
1 1
1
1 1
1
1
1
1
1
1 1 1
1 1 1 1
1 1
1
1
1 1
1 1 1 1
1
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92
in terms of the capital cost, the utilization of machines, and the degree of
independence. Scrutinization may lead to merging machine cells, acquiring new
machines, subcontracting exceptional parts, allowing some intercellular moves,
and setting up functional cells. Since a solution matrix is only a rough layout, it
must provide the smallest clusters possible in raw data to allow maximum
flexibility in designing the final layout. Hence, the solution in matrix 7 is most
desirable.
Several clustering algorithms are considered. Table I summarizes their
performance. Some clustering algorithms require user intervention. Using these
algorithms, the user has to examine immediate matrices and identify
exceptional machines and exceptional parts. Final solutions are subject to
human errors and subjective judgement. In addition, the manual identification
becomes very tedious when dealing with a large matrix.
Some clustering algorithms require threshold values or parameters. In order
to find the most desirable solution to a problem, these algorithms have to be
tested with different threshold value(s) or parameter(s). In other words, they
have to be run a number of times before they can find the most desirable
solution. Many research attempts assume that such threshold values or
parameters are given and do not provide any systematic schemes to find those
values.
Generalized cell formation models
Generalized models deal with the cellular manufacturing problem more
comprehensively, and incorporate different design objectives and constraints.
There are three types of models: part family models; machine assignment
models; and cell formation models. A part family model groups nparts into p
families based on similarity of part design and (or) manufacture. A machine
assignment model assigns machines to machine cells to process part families
efficiently. A cell formation model decides the grouping of parts and clustering
of machines simultaneously. Table II summarizes the characteristics of some
generalized models.
Figure 7.
Matrix 7
1
7
10
4
5
15
11
13
12
1
2
9
16
14
3
1 3 5 2 6 1 9 5 4 9 1 3 9 8 5 6 3 1 3 3 0 4 7 0 1 2 7 2 0 8 2 8 0 4 8 6 7 5 4 6 2 7 9
1 2 1 2 3 3 1 1 2 2 2 1 1 3 4 4 2 2 2 3 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 3 4 1 1 3 3 3
1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1
1 1
1 1 1 1 1
1 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1
1 1
1
1 1 1
1 1 1 1
6
8
1
1
1 1
1
1
1
1 1
1 1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Cellular
manufacturing
algorithms
93
Since generalized models incorporate diverse assumptions, parameters,
constraints, and objectives, comparative study of these models is not possible.
Although these models consider many manufacturing factors, they arbitrarily
ignore potentially critical ones. For example, some models do not consider part
Table I.
The performance of
clustering algorithms
for the standard model
Produces Requires
the Requires threshold
desirable user value(s) or other
Clustering algorithms Reference solution? intervention? parameter(s)?
Array-based
Direct clustering algorithm Chan and Milner[7] Yes Yes No
Rank order clustering King[8] Yes Yes No
Bond energy algorithm McCormick et al.[9] Yes Yes No
Shortest spanning path Slagle et al.[10] Yes Yes No
Integer programming
Close neighbour algorithm Boe and Cheng[11] Yes No No
Simulated annealing algorithm Boctor[12] Uncertain No Yes
A*-based algorithm Kusiak et al.[13] No No Yes
Cluster identification
Cluster identification algorithm Kusiak and Chow[14] No No No
Branch-and-bound algorithm Kusiak and Cheng[15] No No Yes
Branching algorithm Kusiak[16] No No No
Modified cluster algorithm Kusiak and Cho[17] Yes No Yes
Manual
Production flow analysis Burbidge[18] Yes Yes No
Seed-based
Ideal seed algorithm Chandrasekharan and
Rajagopalan[19] No No No
Improved ideal seed algorithm Chandrasekharan and
Rajagopalan[20] Yes No No
Similarity coefficient
Similarity coefficient heuristic Waghodekar and
Sahu[21] No No No
Single linkage clustering McAuley[22] No No No
Average linkage clustering Seifoddini and Wolfe[23] Yes No No
Neural network
Carpenter-Grossberg network Kaparth and Suresh[24] No No Yes
ART network Kusiak and Chung[25] No No Yes
Graph-based
Hamiltonian path approach Askin et al.[26] No No No
Cut-node algorithm Vannelli and Ravi
Kumar[27] Uncertain No Yes
Others
With-cell utilization based Ballakur and
Steudel[28] No No Yes
Occupancy value based Khator and Irani[29] Yes No No
IJOPM
15,12
94
Table II.
The characteristics
of generalized cell
formation models
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demand, and cost of intercellular moves. Others skip material flows, operation
sequences, and operation processing times. However, incorporating all
manufacturing factors makes any real-life problem extremely difficult to solve.
Trade-offs between modelling complexity and computational complexity have
to be sought for each individual case.
Conclusion
Cellular manufacturing is a layout approach to increase productivity in
manufacturing. Parts that are similar in design and manufacture are grouped
into families, and machines are gathered in machine cells to process part
families. Standard and generalized models are used to study the problem. In this
article both models were discussed and evaluated. A real-life example was used
to demonstrate the effectiveness of various clustering algorithms for the
standard model. A narrative comparison of clustering algorithms for
generalized models was also provided.
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