Performance

evaluation of
CM systems
81
Performance evaluation of
cellular manufacturing
systems: a taxonomy and
review of research
Girish Shambu
Canisius College, Buffalo, New York, USA
Nallan C. Suresh and C. Carl Pegels
State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, USA
Introduction
The performance of cellular manufacturing (CM) systems has been rigorously
investigated during the last two decades. Many important advancements have
been made, conceptually and methodologically, and there exists a clear need at
this juncture to provide a summary of the findings of this growing body of
literature that may benefit researchers and practitioners.
From the viewpoint of researchers, there exists a need to tabulate, review
and synthesize past analytical, experimental and empirical work in terms of
the various types of systems studied and the conditions under which each
system has been investigated. A wide range of CM systems has been analysed,
and it has become necessary to provide an overview of the system
configurations and experimental conditions assumed. From a research
standpoint, there also exists a major need to reconcile some disparate
conclusions in this area. A paradoxical finding from many computer
simulation-based studies is that CM systems do not compare favourably to
functional layouts under many parameter ranges. This constitutes a major
departure from the prescriptive literature devoted to group technology (GT).
There exists a need to isolate the set of conditions under which implementation
of CM is likely to have a beneficial impact. Thus, a major objective of this paper
is critically to assess past experimental, analytical and empirical research, and
provide a taxonomical understanding. It has also become necessary to
synthesize the three streams of literature, since each has been conducted in a
somewhat isolated fashion.
Likewise, from a practitioner’s point of view, there exists a need to
summarize, from the widely scattered literature, the sets of conditions under
which CM may be profitably utilized for competitive advantage. Organizing
research findings into the types of systems investigated, the experimental
factors and levels assumed and their impact on various strategic and tactical
performance measures will clearly be of utility from an implementation
standpoint.
International Journal of Operations
&Production Management, Vol. 16
No. 81996, pp. 81-103. ©MCB
University Press, 0144-3577
IJOPM
16,8
82
The taxonomies proposed so far for GT/CM have dealt with the design issue
of grouping parts and machines into mutually exclusive cells. These include
works such as those of Chu[1] and Singh[2]. But no recent taxonomy exists that
summarizes operational issues and impact of CM. The last, and perhaps the
only summary of the literature covering these aspects is the work of DeVrieset
al.[3] dating back to 1976.
This paper is organized as follows. The second section presents a taxonomy,
classifying the literature into three broad streams: simulation investigations,
analytical models and empirical studies. Further classifications on the basis of
types of systems investigated, performance measures and experimental factors
are also provided, with the third section focusing on simulation studies. The
fourth section summarizes the emerging analytical modelling stream, and is
followed by a review of empirical research. Conclusions and research
extensions are summarized in the final section.
A taxonomy of past research
Studies devoted to analysing the performance of CM systems may be classified
first into the following three streams of research:
(1) simulation-based investigations;
(2) analytical models;
(3) empirical research.
Simulation studies constitute the major portion of the work in this area. This is
due to the analytical intractability of CM systems, much like classical job
shops. A recent taxonomy of job shop studies[4] reveals a similar finding.
Analytical modelling has barely begun, and the findings of this new stream of
research are summarized later. The models developed so far have been aimed
mainly at resolving some of the paradoxical findings from simulation-based
research.
There is also a pronounced need for empirical research. The few studies
conducted so far have contributed significantly to our understanding of CM
practices, but further research is necessary fully to capture industry realities
in terms of the extent of CM implementation, and the real extent of success
that has been achieved with CM. In the following sections, we discuss
simulation studies first, followed by the more limited, analytical and empirical
studies.
Simulation-based investigations
Simulation studies of CM were first conducted in the 1970s. Early studies (e.g.
[5-7]) investigated the extent of benefits such as reduction in lead time and set-
up times with the introduction of cellular layouts. These were followed by the
works of Leonard and Rathmill[8] and Rathmill and Leonard[9], which raised
fundamental questions regarding reduction in flow time and work-in-process
Performance
evaluation of
CM systems
83
(WIP) inventory possible with CM. This represents the origins of what we refer
to below as the cellular manufacturing paradox.
Research on CM continued to rely on computer simulation as the primary
research tool during the 1980s, with Gupta and Tompkins[10] investigating the
effects of load imbalances, and Ang and Willey[11] examining the effects of
inter-cell movements. However, there was increasing methodological rigour,
beginning with, in particular, the studies of Flynn and Jacobs[12,13].
These later studies may be broadly divided into two sub-categories. One sub-
category of studies, beginning with Mosier et al.[14], has addressed the impact
of part family-oriented scheduling rules: while the other, beginning with Flynn
and Jacobs[12,13], has focused on comparisons of functional-layout (FL) and
cellular-layout (CL) systems. However, in the following sections we review the
literature based on the types of systems analysed, performance measures and
experimental factors assumed, and FL-CL comparisons. Tables I and II[15-48]
classify the studies under the types of systems investigated, performance
measures used and major experimental factors employed. Tables III-V provide
parameter summaries of representative studies for each type of system.
Work-in
process Proportion of Machine Queue length
Type of system Flow time inventory Tardiness jobs tardy utilization or queue time
Single machine/ [15-24] [15,22] [14,16-21, [14,17-21, [16,22,23] [16,23,
single-cell system 23,25] 23] 26,27]
Multiple-cell,
CL-only system [10,11,28] [11,28] [28,29] [10]
FL-CL [12,13,22, [12,13,22, [12,13,22, [12,13,30,
comparisons 29,40-46] 33-36,38, 30,33,34, 33-35]
39,41-46] 42,44,45]
Table I.
Simulation studies:
performance measures
Major experimental factors
Setup-to- Labour (dual-
Scheduling Demand or -run time Intercell constrained Degreeof
Typeof system rule Lot size shop load ratio moves shop) cellularization
Singlemachine/ [14,16,17,19- [15,16, [14,16- [14,16-18,20, [23]
single-cell system23,26,27,47] 22,26] 21,23] 21,23,25]
Multiple-cell,
CL-only system [11,28,29] [10,29] [10,11] [28]
FL-CL [22,36,38,41, [12,13,31, [12,13,34-
comparisons [34,35] 42,44-46,48] 32,35] [36] 36,44] [31,32,49] [31,32,44]
Table II.
Simulation sudies:
experimental factors
IJOPM
16,8
84
Types of systems simulated
A wide range of systems has been analysed, and it is advantageous, for
researchers and practitioners alike, first to approach the literature from this
standpoint. The systems analysed have ranged from simple, single-machine or
single-cell systems to more complex, FL-CL systems.
Single-machine/single-cell systems. The basic premiss in these studies, based
on a single machine or cell, is that the findings are generalizable to the shop as
a whole. The main thrust of investigation in these studies has been on the
impact of part family-oriented scheduling rules. It ought to be stressed,
however, that these rules can also be utilized in FL itself, without recourse to a
change towards CL.
Wemmerlöv[23] represents the sole example for a study based on a single-
machine context. The experimental factors included two scheduling rules with
Mosier Mahmoodi Russell and Wirth
Characteristics Wemmerlöv[23] et al.[17] et al.[17] Philipoom[47] et al.[25]
Shop
Number of
machines 1 4 5 5 5
Number of
machinetypes 1 4 5 5 5
Number of parts 36 25
Number of cells - 1 1 1 1
Machineutilization Variable 77%, 96% 80%, 87% 75% 80-99%
dual constrained? No No No No Yes
Experimental # part families, Utilization, setup Shop load, due Family switching S/R ratio,
factors family mix, ratio datetightness, rule, next family transfer to run
distribution of S/R ratio rule, duedate timeratio, job
inter-arrival and assignment, next inter-arrival time
run times, S/R job rule, setup distribution,
ratio, inter-arrival time cell load
time, scheduling
rule
Scheduling rules FCFS, SPT, DS, CR1, CR2, FCFS, SPT, SI
x
, Next family rules: Machines:
FCFS-F, SPT-F, SPT, FIFO, and FCFAM, DDFAM, TWK, FCFS, FCFCFS,
FCFS/SPT-F AVE, WORK, MSFAM EDD, CYC, APT, LNQSPT,
ECON SLK/T, EDD/T. MSSPT, ECSI,
Duedate: TWK, Labour: IDLE,
CONST, RAND, QCOMP, PULL
SEQ. Next job:
FCFS, EDD, SLK,
SPT
Performance Flow time, Tardiness, Tardiness, Tardiness Timein system,
measures length, lateness, lateness setup % jobs tardy, tardiness,
queue time, idletime flow time % jobs tardy
utilization, flow time,
number jobs proportion
processed of latejobs
Table III.
Single machine/single
cell systems:
representative
simulation studies
Performance
evaluation of
CM systems
85
and without setup avoidance through family orientation (FCFS-F, FCFS, SPT-F
and SPT), machine utilization, number of part families, set-up-to-run-time ratio,
frequency of jobs by family, and distribution of job inter-arrival and run times.
The experiments showed that the degree of variability in job arrival and service
times had the most significant impact on flow time. Part family scheduling
rules had a significantly greater impact when there was high variability in
arrivals and processing times. Under such conditions, it was shown that SPT-F
resulted in the lowest mean flow times, and FCFS-F in lowest flow-time
variance.
The simulation of single-machine systems, in Karmarkar et al.[15] and
Kekre[26], and a single-work centre system in Suresh[48,49], was aimed at
validating analytical models. These are discussed later.
Next, studies based on a single cell can be classified as those devoted to “job-
shop cells” or “flow-line cells”. The main focus of these studies has again been
on development, and impact of part family-oriented scheduling rules.
In job-shop cells, typically a job enters the cell at any work centre and follows
any possible routeing within the cell. Mosier et al.[14] first tested part-family
scheduling rules in a cell with four machines. The utility of family selection
rules was demonstrated, with ECON and WORK rules outperforming the AVE
Characteristics Gupta and Tompkins[10] Ang and Willey[11] Russell et al.[28]
Shop
# machines 12 24
# machine types 6 2, 4, 6
# parts 8 90
# cells 3, 8 3
Machine utilization 90%
dual-constrained? No No Yes
Experimental factors Shop configuration, Shop configuration, Phase I: rules for
batch size, setup times batch overlapping, sequencing, labour
pure/hybrid GT, assign. rule, labour
scheduling rules transfer rule.
Phase II: routeing,
labour allocation,
scheduling policy
Scheduling rules FIFO Several rules for Machines: FCFS, SPT,
selecting jobs, and DDATE. Labour:
machines for LNQ, LWF, TPT,
intercell movement CLNQ. Labour
and alternate routeing transfer: COMPL
possibilities IDLE
Performance Stay time, queue Mean flow time, Flow time, tardiness,
lengths, inter-cellular lateness standard lateness, % tardy
moves, intra-cellular deviation, mean job
moves tardiness
Table IV.
Multiple cell, CL-only
systems: representative
simulation studies
IJOPM
16,8
86
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Table V.
FL-CL comparisons:
representative
simulation
studies
Performance
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87
rule. Lee[16] assumed a cell with six machines, to investigate the effects of lot
sizes and number of part families.
Mahmoodi et al.[17], Mahmoodi and Dooley[19] and Ruben et al.[21]
extended this research further, assuming a five-machine job shop cell. In
Mahmoodi et al.[17], using exhaustive scheduling rules (i.e. switching to
another family only after all jobs in a given family were exhausted), it was
shown that due-date performance could be improved, however, at the expense
of setup-time reductions. In Mahmoodi and Dooley[19], it was shown that, in
general, exhaustive rules are superior to non-exhaustive rules. However, non-
exhaustive rules may fare better in lightly loaded environments. In Mahmoodi
et al.[18], the emphasis was on order release and due date assignment
heuristics. In Wirth et al.[25], the presence of labour within the cell was
included, and it was shown that labour scheduling rules, and labour transfer
times, significantly affect the performance. In a recent work, Kannan and
Lyman[50] showed that part family rules can be utilized to counter adverse
effects of lot splitting in job shop cells.
The second set of single-cell studies has assumed flow line cells. Wemmerlöv
and Vakharia[27] and Mahmoodi et al.[20] examined the effects of traditional
and group scheduling procedures in a five-stage flow-line cell. The simulation of
flow-line cells in Suresh[22] was to validate analytical models. Finally, Russell
and Philipoom[47] tested various sequencing rules and due-date setting
procedures in a five-stage cell that processed five part families.
Multiple-cell CL systems. These studies have investigated multiple-cell CL
systems without comparing them with FL. Gupta and Tompkins[10] examined
the effect of cell size, lot size and degree of setup reduction on the performance
of a three-cell system and an eight-cell system. Ang and Willey[11]
investigated the effect of inter-cell transfer of jobs to offset the adverse effects
of load imbalances among cells. Maintenance policies were studied by
Banerjee and Flynn[30], in a shop with ten cells, with 39 machines belonging to
ten machine types. Some interaction among the cells was present. Another
multi-cell system, with labour allocation issues as the main thrust, was studied
by Russell et al.[28].
Functional layout/cellular layout comparisons. A significant number of
studies now belongs to this category, and for the most part, they have
demonstrated the performance deterioration with cellular layouts. This
important issue is discussed later, and the discussion here pertains only to the
types of systems analysed.
Flynn and Jacobs[12,13] compared four different types of layouts. In [12], the
following layouts were investigated: PROCSS, a process layout developed by
using CRAFT; PRODED, physically identical to PROCSS but with machines
dedicated to the processing of certain part families; and two layouts that relied
on both a cellular layout and machine dedication. Flynn[35] investigated the
effect of average setup time on the output capacity of a shop. Two layouts were
used: a FL that used machine dedication, and a CL. Flynn[34] employed the
repetitive lots procedure, and three layouts were studied: a FL, a CL and a
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combination layout. A characteristic feature of these studies was the fact that
the average job was processed in a number of cells. Morris and Tersine[39]
compared CL and FL with a much higher degree of cell-complete manu-
facturing and again demonstrated the performance deterioration with cellular
layouts.
Garza and Smunt[36] illustrated the negative impact of inter-cell flow and
indicated how other factors in converting to CL may counter the negative impact.
The FL contained eight departments and CL, six cells. Suresh and Meredith[46],
in addition to presenting analytical results, simulated two FLs, one of which
employed part-family scheduling rules, and five CL systems.
A few studies have considered hybrid systems (FL systems that include one
or more cells). Christy and Nandkeolyar[51] demonstrated the findings of
[12,17] in this context as well. Suresh[44] investigated a hybrid system, in which
an FL was compared with hybrid systems containing one to four cells. Burgess
et al.[32] compared an FL with a hybrid system that included one cell. Labour
elements were also included in this study.
Performance measures
A wide range of performance measures has been used. Tables I and II list the
most frequently employed measures. These include the mean flow time, defined
as total time spent in system. Several variations of mean flow time have also
been used. For instance, Garza and Smunt[36] employed mean improvement in
flow time when comparing the performance of FL with CL, while Burgess et
al.[32] computed the ratio of actual flow time to optimum flow time, where the
latter was the sum of the setup time and processing time for a job. A new
measure, the flow ratio, was introduced by Suresh[45] for fair comparisons of
CL with FL. It was defined as the ratio of the flow time (or WIP) in a CL to the
flow time of an efficiently operated FL.
Similarly WIP has been measured in several ways. Most studies have
considered it as the time-weighted average number of unfinished units in the
system during the simulation period. Flynn and Jacobs[12] computed it as the
sum of the number of parts in each of the queues, plus the parts waiting to be
moved. Morris and Tersine[39] measured WIP as the sum of the processing plus
setup time expended for all jobs currently in the shop.
Due-date related performance has been captured with the help of several
measures, the most commonly used being job tardiness, proportion and number
of jobs delayed, and ratio of early to late jobs. While research exists[47] on due-
date setting procedures for CM, a number of studies have employed variants of
Conway’s TWK rule[52]. Since this rule was originally developed for job shops,
further work is necessary to generate due-dates that are more meaningful for
CM environments.
Machine utilization is a frequently employed dependent variable. It is defined
as the proportion of time spent on processing or setup. Since machine utilization
is affected by load-related factors, the application of GT usually results in a
decrease in machine utilization due to reduction in setup times. This seemingly
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adverse effect actually has the positive impact of raising the productive
capacity of the equipment.
Setup time, run time and the setup-to-run time ratio have also been used,
though less frequently, as performance criteria. Flynn and Jacobs[12,13]
measured setup times in their study and both Wemmerlöv[23] and Lee[16]
employed setup-to-run time ratio as a measure of performance. Flynn and
Jacobs[12,13] employed a greater number of measures than any other CM study,
including distances moved, number of parts completed and several queue-
related criteria.
Major experimental factors and their impact on various performance measures
Tables I and II show major experimental factors assumed in simulation studies.
They include scheduling rules, lot sizes, demand/shop load, setup and run
times, inter-cell moves, labour-related factors and degree of cellularization.
Scheduling rules. From Tables I and II it is evident that a significant number
of studies have investigated the impact of scheduling rules. A majority of these
studies have been conducted in single-machine or single-cell settings, with their
conclusions generalized to the shop level.
First, the early work of Vaithianathan and McRoberts[53] found part family-
based rules to outperform the classical SPT rule in terms of flow time and set-
up savings. However, the percentage of jobs delayed were 90 per cent to 300 per
cent higher than those of SPT.
The performance of two-stage scheduling rules (i.e. part family-oriented
rules that involve both family selection and individual job selection) were
investigated by Mosier et al.[14] in job-shop cells. The study found that the
WORK queue selection rule, which chose the queue with the lowest total work
content, had the best flow time and lateness performance. The AVE rule, which
chose the queue with the highest average job priority, performed best in terms
of proportion of jobs late. The slack-driven and SPT rules were the best-
performing job selection rules in terms of flow time and tardiness. Lee[16] used
FCFS, SLACK/SPT and a three-tiered hierarchical rule, SLACK/TSU/SPT, in
order to capitalize on similarities in setups. The three-tiered rule outperformed
the other two rules in terms of flow time, setup-to-run-time ratio and machine
utilization for a wide variety of conditions.
Research on group scheduling rules which attempted to extend the work of
Mosier et al.[14] can be divided into three categories based upon whether the
studies were conducted on single machine, a job shop cell or flow-line cell. For a
single machine case[23], it was indicated that group scheduling procedures
perform particularly well in environments with large queues and high
utilization, high setup-to-run-time ratios, small number of part families and
high degree of instability with respect to job arrivals and run times.
In the context of a job shop cell[17], the queue selection rule MS-FAM
(minimum setup-family rule) performed well in terms of flow time and
percentage of jobs tardy. In the same study, the due-date related queue selection
rule DDFAM performed best in terms of average job tardiness. However, little
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difference was detected between job selection rules that used SPT or two-class
SPT in terms of flow time performance.
The two-stage MSSPT rule[21] performed well in terms of flow time but
poorly on effectiveness-related measures. It was concluded that the heuristic
would be more appropriate for make-to-stock rather than make-to-order
firms. On the other hand, the rules DDSI and FCFCFS performed poorly on
flow time and well on due-date related measures, thus making them
appropriate for make-to-order environments where adherence to due dates is
more critical.
The performance of exhaustive and non-exhaustive rules was compared in
the context of a job shop cell in [19]. The study indicated that the non-
exhaustive heuristics DDFAM and DKFAM, both of which targeted setup
reduction and due dates, dominated the exhaustive heuristics on the average
tardiness measure. However, the performance of exhaustive heuristic MSFAM
was superior to all other rules in terms of flow time and per cent jobs tardy for
a wide variety of conditions.
The effect of group scheduling in a job shop cell which utilized lot splitting
was examined in [50]. Large amounts of lot splitting can result in performance
degradation due to increased setup frequency, but the study showed that part
family-oriented scheduling rules reduce this negative impact on flow time.
However, the rules are far less effective in arresting the decline of due-date
related performance.
Due date setting and order releasing were studied in [18] which indicated
that simpler, non-due date oriented heuristics performed as well as complex due
date-oriented heuristics when shop information was used to assign due dates.
Results also indicated that the use of shop information was not worthwhile for
the purpose of order releasing decisions.
Group scheduling rules have also been investigated in a flow-line cell. In
Mahmoodi et al.[20], the MSSPT rule sought to avoid setups, and used SPT for
job selection, performing well in terms of flow time. The DDSI rule, which
targeted due dates and used 2-class SPT for job selection, resulted in good
completion-related performance. In Russell and Philipoom[47], the APT
(smallest average processing time first) family selection rule in combination
with the SPT job selection rule had the best flow time performance.
In summary, past research indicates that GT scheduling rules have a
significant impact on shop performance in environments characterized by high
levels of loading levels and congestion, high setup-to-run-time ratios, and high
variability in processing times and job inter-arrival times.
Lot sizes and overlapped processing. The importance of lot sizes in
determining flow times and WIP was articulated by Karmarkar[54] and
Karmarkar et al.[15]. These works showed that flow times tend to be high at low
lot sizes due to the excessive number of setups. As the lot size is increased, the
number of setups reduces, releasing capacity and reducing flow times rapidly.
However, the run times also start to increase with increasing lot sizes, causing
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the flow time and WIP to rise again. A similar impact on flow time and WIP
occurs in CM systems as well[45,48].
Among simulation models that have included lot size as a factor, Lee[16]
demonstrated that using smaller lot sizes in cells, in conjunction with efficient
scheduling rules, improves cell performance. Shafer[41] and Garza and
Smunt[36] have also treated lot size as a separate factor in CM systems.
However, a majority of simulation studies have tacitly assumed common lot
sizes in FL and CM systems, thus possibly rendering FL systems to be superior
in many cases[45].
The use of lot splitting and operations overlapping in cells has been shown to
result in performance improvements. Flynn[34] and Jacobs and Bragg[55]
introduced the concept of repetitive lots, and the use of release, operation and
transfer batches to minimize flow time. Transfer batches and overlapping were
also employed by Morris and Tersine[38], which examined the cell loading and
machine loading approaches. Cell loading essentially involves setting the whole
cell together for a job, and the whole cell is devoted to processing one job at a
time, with overlapped processing. The study found that at low levels of shop
utilization cell loading was preferable to both FL and CL using machine loading.
Shafer and Charnes[42] used queuing and simulation models to illustrate the
benefits of using operations overlapping. CL outperformed FL under a wide
variety of conditions in their study.
Demand or shop load. Much of the work on group scheduling procedures in
CM has also employed shop load as an experimental factor. Mosier et al.[14]
used two levels of cell loads and found that differences in flow time and
tardiness-related performance between rules were more apparent at the high
loading level. Mahmoodi et al.[17] and Mahmoodi and Dooley[19] found that
flow time and tardiness performance of the scheduling rules were positively
influenced by the shop load factor, and that the flow time[17] performance of the
MSFAM rule was very robust to the shop load factor.
Ruben et al.[21] found that effect of the cell load factor on flow time, tardiness
and per cent jobs tardy was much more pronounced on single-stage rules.
Group scheduling rules were much more robust to the level of cell load due to
the fact that the rules targeted setup avoidance, which lessened the congestion
in the cell. Wirth et al.[25] found that in a dual-constrained cell, the cell load had
a higher impact on cell flow time and tardiness performance than did any of the
decision rules.
Flynn and Jacobs[12,13], in comparing FL and CL, found that distributions of
part demand had very little impact on flow time, WIP, machine utilization,
waiting time and other measures. Shafer and Charnes[43] investigated the effect
of two shop loading procedures, machine and group loading, while comparing
FL with CL. The study found that in more congested, non labour-constrained
environments, group loading impairs cells but benefits FL in terms of flow time.
When the congestion level is low, and labour is not a constraint, both FL and CL
perform better with group loading.
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Setup and run times. A wide range of assumptions regarding setup and run
times have been made, and a variety of theoretical distributions used to
generate these times. For example, Mahmoodi et al.[17], and Suresh[44] derived
their set-up times from an Erlang distribution. Exponential[45], normal[20],
uniform[55] and gamma distributions[56] have also been employed for the
purpose.
Some typical values assumed for setup and run times are as follows. Shafer
and Charnes[42] generated operation setup times from a uniform distribution of
30 to 120 minutes. Garza and Smunt[36] used three different levels of major
setup time (0.2, 0.4 and 0.6 hours) and then varied the minor to major setup time
ratio (0.1, 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9). Suresh[44] employed a mean setup time of three hours
and a wide range of setup reduction. An empirical survey of CM users[24]
indicated the average minor to major setup time ratio to be around 0.68. As for
run times, Shafer and Charnes[42] employed two levels (one to five minutes and
ten to 30 minutes per operation) while Mahmoodi et al.[20] used a normal
distribution with a mean run time of one hour per job with a coefficient of
variation of 0.25. Russell et al.[28] employed an exponential distribution with a
mean of 1.5 hours, and Morris and Tersine[38] assumed a run time of 2,060
minutes for a 50-unit job. Some studies (e.g. [12,29]) have based the choices of
setup and operation times on data from a particular manufacturing shop. Flynn
and Jacobs[12] used data from an actual shop, and employed a run time that
varied from 0.5 to 22 hours.
Setup time reduction has constituted a crucial argument in favour of CM.
Early CM simulation studies ([5,6,10) focused on setup reduction and its impact
on lowering flow times and WIP. Vaithianathan and McRoberts[53] developed
several scheduling rules targeting set-up reduction in cells. The fertile stream of
research on group scheduling constructed its case for part-family oriented
scheduling on the achievement of setup savings[14,17-20, 23,27]. A number of
studies have employed setup reduction as an experimental factor[31,32,44,45,48].
It has also been pointed out[45,48] that the positive effects from setup reduction
must first work towards counteracting the loss of pooling synergy resulting
from the conversion from FL to CL before net gains can be achieved. Thus the
extent of set-up reduction plays a critical role in determining the success of CM.
In employing setup-to-run time (S/R) ratio as an experimental factor[17,19], it
was found that the flow time performance of group scheduling rules was very
sensitive to the level of the S/R ratio, and intuitively, worked better when the
ratio was high. It was noted[21] that as the level of the S/R factor was varied
through the adjustment of setup time, the lower level resulted in shorter flow
times for all rules. In addition, the performance of group scheduling rules was
much more robust than single-stage, traditional job shop rules to changes in the
level of the ratio.
Inter-cell moves. Cell-complete manufacturing has been emphasized through-
out GT literature. But empirical research[24] indicates that it is quite common
in practice for parts to be processed in more than one cell.
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A relatively small number of CM studies have employed inter-cell flow as an
experimental factor. Gupta and Tompkins[10] found that the number of
resulting inter-cell moves was significantly lower for large cells than for small
ones. Ang and Willey[11] developed and tested rules for inter-cell transfer of
jobs, noting that job flow time markedly declined with increase in inter-cellular
movement.
Garza and Smunt[36] considered various levels of inter-cell flow in comparing
FL and CL, finding that flow time worsened with increasing inter-cell flow. The
study suggested that inter-cell flow could be minimized by using larger cell sizes,
possible at the expense of lower setup time reductions.
Suresh[45], in comparing FL with CL, found that transfer of jobs from one cell
to another was useful only when the degree of setup reduction was low. At higher
degrees of setup reduction, and lower lot sizes, it was noted that intercell flow
impedes material flow, and increases flow times and WIP.
Labour-related factors. Until recently, CM simulation studies assumed an
environment that is non-labour-constrained. However, the field of dual resource-
constrained (DRC) systems is a fertile area for future work because it closely
represents industry reality.
Russell et al.[28] indicated that labour flexibility, routeing flexibility and the
interaction of labour policies with scheduling policies were important factors in
shop performance. The study found that sequencing jobs with EDD and
transferring workers only when the queue at the current machine was empty
(IDLE) produced the best flow time results. In addition, the results improved
equally if workers were assigned to the machine with the longest queue (LNQ)
or to the machine with a queue twice as long as the current queue (CLNQ).
However, tardiness-related performance measures were positively influenced
when workers were assigned to the machine whose first job in line had waited
the longest (LWF). The study indicated that in cases where complete cross-
training of workers was infeasible, good results could still be obtained by
selecting an appropriate combination of product routeing, labour allocation
strategy and scheduling policy.
Wirth et al.[25] noted that labour as a constraint had a significant impact on
the performance of several group scheduling heuristics. The MS group
scheduling rule, which had performed poorly on tardiness-related measures in
previous, machine-constrained-only studies[17,19], now exhibited the best
performance in terms of flow time and tardiness-related measures. The LQ-
IDLE decision rule performed best when transfer times were high, and the EC-
PL rule yielded good results when an exponential inter-arrival distribution was
used and transfer times were low.
Burgess et al.[32] compared FL with a hybrid CL in a DRC study and
concluded that, at a particular operating level, the FL outperformed the hybrid
CL on flow time even when setup time reductions in the latter were as high as 90
per cent, a result attributed to the fact that a loss in routeing flexibility resulted
when machines from FL were dedicated to the cell. Shafer and Charnes[43]
indicated that the extent to which a shop was labour constrained was an
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important factor in selecting a plant configuration. In non labour-constrained
shops, CL outperformed FL, but in labour-constrained shops, the reverse was
true.
Suresh[49] compared FL and CM systems in a DRC context, and found that
just as there is a loss of pooling synergy due to partitioning machine pools,
implementing CM also involves a loss of pooling synergy from partitioning
functionally specialized labour pools.
Morris and Tersine[40] obtain similar results, while comparing FL and CL in
a DRC environment. They noted that benefits from the routeing flexibility of FL
outweighed the lower setup times and higher worker/machine assignment
flexibility of CL in terms of flow time and WIP. It was also found that labour
assignment rules did result in performance differences in CL. The LMQ
(machine with the longest queue) and MQE (operators remain at a machine
queue until it is empty) both outperformed FCFS on flow time and WIP but fell
short of FCFS performance in FL. The CL also performed poorly in terms of
operator and machine utilization in the study.
Degree of cellularization. A few studies have examined hybrid systems, in
which cells coexist with functional layouts. Burgess[31] and Burgess et al.[32]
compared the flow time performance of FL with a hybrid CL that contained one
cell. The study indicated that while the cell in the hybrid CL outperformed FL,
the overall CL shop performance was inferior to that of FL because of loss of
flexibility. Christy and Nandkeolyar[51] compared an FL with a hybrid CL that
contained one cell. The CL performed well on flow time, especially at high
degrees of setup reduction but tardiness-related performance was relatively
poor.
Suresh[44] compared an FL with four-hybrid CL systems, and found that the
hybrid CL systems outperformed FL only when the degree of setup time
reduction was high, the lot size low and the degree of cellularization high. The
remainder shop, organized as an FL, suffered performance deterioration in
terms of flow time and WIP. It is clear that further work is necessary to suggest
ways of extracting improvements in the remainder shop of hybrid systems.
Functional layout-cellular layout comparisons
This line of enquiry, comparing FL and CL performance, has been at odds with
the prescriptive literature. Flynn and Jacobs[12] reported that the dedication of
equipment to certain part families in a CL led to serious degradation in shop
performance. The study claimed that reports from users of GT has hitherto
been very favourable because the CLs were being compared with previously
existing job shops that were less efficiently run. These conclusions support
earlier claims [8].
Morris and Tersine[39] confirmed that CL only outperform FL in environments
characterized by high setup-to-run time ratio, stable demand, unidirectional flow
of work in the cell and high material movement times between FL departments.
Burgess et al.[32] compared the performance of an FL with a onecell hybrid
system, and found that the latter performs better when the cell is operated at
Performance
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higher levels of capacity than the FL. Shafer and Charnes[42] developed
analytical and simulation models to compare FL and CL performance, showing a
clear superiority of CL under a variety of conditions.
Based on a growing number of studies in this domain it is now clear that CL
tends to dominate FL only under certain conditions. Suresh[22,45,48] introduced
analytical models to resolve some of these paradoxical observations, and the
findings of this stream of literature are discussed under analytical models next.
Analytical models
Early analytical work pertained to the development of machine loading rules
for cellular manufacturing. This includes works such as those of Ham et al.[57],
and Hitomi and Ham[58,59], which involve mathematical programming models
for machine-loading in cells.
Karmarkar[54] and Karmarkar et al.[15] analysed the impact of lot sizing on
flow times and WIP. These models are based on open-queuing-network
assumptions, M/M/1 queuing models and heuristic approaches. They showed
that the batch size has a significant effect on flow time and WIP, and these
general conclusions were applied to a single-cell context in [54]. The models of
Yang and Deane[60] are in a similar vein, addressing multi-item lot sizing.
Analytical models may be criticized for being based on simplistic and
generally Markovian assumptions, but the results obtained have been shown to
be robust under more general conditions. They also tend to offer generalizable
insights and prospects for optimization. And importantly, in the CM context,
analytical models have also served to resolve the paradoxical findings of
simulation studies.
The modelling stream introduced in Suresh[22,45,48] has addressed what
may be termed the cellular manufacturing paradox, the long-standing polemic
arising from the early works of Leonard and Rathmill[8], and Rathmill and
Leonard[9]. Leonard and Rathmill asserted that efficiently operated FL is
superior to CL, and pointed out that GT has been favourably compared with the
poor FL that many firms started with, and efficient FL is capable of providing
better flow times and WIP, apart from several flexibility-related advantages
than CL. In Rathmill and Leonard[9] they also offered a queuing theory-based
analysis to demonstrate the performance deterioration with CM.
The simulation studies of Flynn and Jacobs[12,13] and, later, by Morris and
Tersine[39,40] tended to reinforce these views. In [12,13], the simulation
experiments were based on real shop data, with a low level of cell
independence (with the average part routed through many cells). Morris and
Tersine[39,40] assumed cell-complete manufacturing and again demonstrated
similar effects.
The analytical models of Suresh[22,45,48] showed that the conversion of FL
into CL involves partitioning several work centres. The loss of pooling synergy
in this process can be significant, and this is the reason for the relatively poor
performance of CL in the studies of Flynn and Jacobs[12,13] and Morris and
Tersine[39,40].
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In [22], the simple case of GT flow lines was addressed. A flow line was de-
composed into a series of stations, each of which can be analysed independently
using a M/M/1 or M/M/c queuing model. The effects of creating such stations by
partitioning job shop work centres were analysed in conjunction with the effects
of lot sizing by utilizing the results of [15,54]. The results thus obtained for
hybrid CM contexts explained the findings of [8,9,12,13,35,39,40].
In Suresh[48], a hybrid system with a remainder cell was assumed. It was
shown that partitioning a work centre leads to significant adverse effects on
flow characteristics. This can be countered by setup reduction in the cells, but
the adverse effects in the remainder cell tend to erode the benefits obtained, and
the overall results for hybrid systems are also consistent with [12,35,39].
In Suresh[45], it was shown that the setup reduction introduced in a
partitioned system has to first counter the adverse effects before leading to the
advantages associated with CM. Accordingly, a breakeven setup reduction
factor was introduced to indicate the degree of setup reduction required to
counter the loss of pooling synergy. In addition, a flow ratio measure was
introduced for a fair comparison of CL with an efficiently operated functional
layout (EFL). It was shown that a high degree of setup reduction is required, in
addition to low lot sizes and larger cell sizes, for CM to compare favourably with
an EFL. Intercell movement was found to be of value, if limited setup reduction
was possible.
Ensuring flow ratios below one becomes a major design objective for CL
systems in general. The flow ratio is a measure common to flow time and WIP,
in accordance with Little’s Law; it is a non-dimensional measure that also
enables a fair comparison of partitioned systems with the best unpartitioned
system.
The models were extended further in Suresh and Meredith[46], recognizing
the need for a concerted effort to overcome the loss of pooling synergy in the
conversion to CM. In addition to reduction in setup times and lot sizes, CM may
also lead to reduction in variability of job arrivals and processing times, and
productivity improvements, and the impact of these additional factors for
coping with the loss of pooling synergy was investigated. It was shown that,
with a concerted effort, CL may outperform the best of FL systems.
In addition to partitioning of machine pools, CM also involves partitioning
the functionally specialized labour pools of a job shop. The loss of pooling
synergy arising from labour dimension was investigated in Suresh[49], in a dual
resource constrained system context. It was shown that:
• a threshold level of worker cross-training may be necessary to ensure a
viable partition of parts, machines and labour into cells;
• even minimal amounts of cross-training seem to lead to significant
benefits;
• they are subject to diminishing marginal returns: hence, a large amount
of cross-training may not be necessary;
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• with cross-training, the amount of setup reduction effort required to
ensure flow ratios below one is reduced, and vice versa.
Similar findings have been reported by Morris and Tersine[40] from their
simulation study of a dual-constrained system comparison of FL and CL.
In summary, analytical models have so far been driven by the need to resolve
the paradox posed by simulation studies. Much work remains to be done in
developing models for the design and operation of effective CM systems in
general.
Empirical research
The extent of empirical research on CM is also limited. Pullen[61], in an early
work, surveyed 14 firms in the mechanical engineering industry in the UK.
The study constructed a profile of the typical cell, which had 11 workers and
14 machines, completed most batches inside the cell but occasionally sent work
to other cells, and had its own family of similar components which required
similar machining in the cell. Employees were occasionally within and out of
the cells. Each cell had its own inspection, tool store and was set up without
reference to the employees within. Education and training were typically not
provided to employees in the cell during start-up.
A notable finding from Pullen[61] was that even though managers claimed
improvements in WIP, utilization, labour turnover, absenteeism and setup
times, the claims could not be corroborated by financial statements or other
records. It was concluded that CM was not too widely used in the mechanical
engineering industry. Furniture industry had many more cells in operation, and
they were of higher quality.
Wemmerlöv and Hyer[24] surveyed 32 US firms in the metalworking
industry. The five most common reasons cited for establishing cells were to
reduce WIP, setup time, throughput time and materials handling and to improve
product quality. Half the firms in the study had both cells and dedicated
machinery while the remaining half used only cells. Twenty-five of the 32 firms
had only manned cells, with a low degree of automation and high level of labour
intensity. The number of manned cells per firm ranged from one to 35, with an
average of 5.9 cells. Eighty-one per cent of the firms had six or fewer manned
cells, and the majority of the cells had been established after 1980. Eighty-seven
per cent of the firms claimed to have multifunctional operators and the extent of
intra-cell mobility was quite extensive. Non-unionized plants had slightly more
intra-cell mobility and more tasks performed by cell operators than unionized
plants.
The study revealed that while machine dedication yielded benefits such as
reduction in setup times, throughput times and WIP, several firms also found it
to have an adverse effect in terms of lower machine utilization, loss of flexibility
and increased capital investment. These firms concluded that full conversion to
CM was necessary to improve performance significantly. Machine relocation
expenditures were the most common reason for practising machine dedication
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rather than cell building. Employee resistance and scepticism were cited as
problems, along with load imbalances. The survey noted a new managerial
attitude towards emphasizing quick material flows rather than high
utilizations. Most of the firms reported benefits in throughput time, WIP,
material handling, setup times and quality improvements. Major expenses for
cell implementation were attributed to equipment re-installation, feasibility
studies, new equipment, training, and new tools and fixtures.
Much work needs to be done on the empirical research front. A greater
variety of firms belonging to a broad range of industries needs to be surveyed
in order to learn what types of environments are suitable for the application of
CM. Past studies have been based on responses from firms with cells in
operation. There is also a need for additional inputs from production records
and financial statements, and respondents from different levels and
departments, to counter the potential bias arising from information provided by
cell users and project champions in the firms.
Conclusions and directions for future work
Though the performance of CM systems has been investigated quite
extensively, the environments or parameter ranges under which CL systems
may be effectively utilized remains unclear. However, it is now increasingly
evident that CL may be applicable in a somewhat narrower set of mid-
volume/mid-variety situations than has been suggested in the prescriptive
literature. Given that there could be significant performance deterioration due
to partitioning of machine and labour pools in the conversion to CL, the problem
reduces to one of successfully overcoming the loss of pooling synergy. Thus,
based on the simulation and analytical research of the last decade, it may be
stated that CL may outperform an EFL in all parameter ranges where flow
ratios of less than one can be realized. Accordingly, the following issues need to
be further investigated:
• Investigation of the performance of the entire shopfloor rather than a
single machine or a single cell. While it is true that single-machine or
single-cell studies have attempted to study closely the behaviour of one
or more important factors without introducing the added complexity of
modelling an entire shop, there is need for shop-level studies that
would take into account the effects of one portion of the shop on
another. Shop-level studies may also approximate industry conditions
more closely.
• Investigation of additional parameter ranges under which CM does or
does not perform well. While much work has been done in this regard,
continuing investigation that builds on past research will help industry
make informed decisions on when to implement CM, and to what extent.
• Changes in product mix, demand rates and uncertainties also have to be
considered in cell design and operation. The flexibility to cope with these
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changes is generally reduced in converting to CM. This aspect has not
been sufficiently investigated in FL-CL comparisons.
• Further development of analytical models to investigate other aspects of
cell operation. CM systems have long been regarded as analytically
intractable. But in the light of new approaches, it appears that there is
potential for much more work in this area. These findings will lay a firm
foundation for design of CM systems, and complement the findings of
simulation-based studies.
• Further research on dual resource-constrained systems, as they more
closely approximate industry conditions. Recognizing and modelling
labour as a constraint, and examining the impact of cross-training and
labour flexibility, which are measures pursued by industry actively in
recent years, need to be addressed.
• A careful examination of industry survey information in order to make
choices on experimental factor levels that are more in line with industry
reality. One reason why simulation studies of FL and CL systems have
yielded mixed results lies in the choice of experimental factors, factor
levels, shop conditions, and environmental choices and assumptions.
Hypothetical shop data have been employed by the overwhelming
majority of the work, and not enough effort has been made to justify its
appropriateness. The use of data from a particular shop, it can be
argued, however, could limit the generalizability of the findings. One
potential avenue is to identify a few distinct manufacturing
environments that reflect “typical” applications of CM, and then proceed
to use actual data from them in order to study a wide range of cellular
manufacturing scenarios. This would lead to a wider applicability of the
findings of simulation-based studies. Finally, the choice of factors and
factor levels needs to be more closely linked to the findings of empirical
work.
• There is also a need for more rigorous empirical research. Past research
has relied significantly on information provided by CM project
champions and cell users. Widening the base of respondents within
firms may lead to an unbiased assessment of the real extent of
performance improvements with CM.
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Further reading
Boucher, T.O., “Lot sizing in group technology production systems”, International Journal of
Production Research, Vol. 22, 1984, pp. 85-93.
Burbidge, J.L., TheIntroduction of Group Technology, Wiley and Sons, New York, NY, 1975.
Graves,. S.C., “A review of production scheduling”, Operations Research, Vol. 29 No. 4, 1981,
pp. 646-75.
Greene, T.J. and Sadowski, P.R., “A review of cellular manufacturing assumptions, advantages
and design techniques”, Journal of Operations Management, Vol. 4, 1984, pp. 85-97.
Ham, I., Hitomi, K. and Yoshida, T., Group Technology, KluwerNijhoff, Boston, MA, 1985.
Performance
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CM systems
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Hyer, N.L., “The potential of group technology for US manufacturing”, Journal of Operations
Management, Vol. 4 No. 3, 1984.
Hyer, N.L. and Wemmerlöv, U., “MRP/GT: a framework for production planning and control of
cellular manufacturing”, Decision Sciences, 1982, Vol. 13, pp. 681-701.
Hyer, N.L., and Wemmerlöv, U., “Group technology in the US manufacturing industry”,
International Journal of Production Research, Vol. 27 No. 8, 1989, pp. 1287-304.
Mosier, C.T. and Taube, L., “The facts of group technology and their impacts on implementation:
a state-of-the-art survey”, OMEGA International Journal of Management Science, Vol. 13,
1985, pp. 381-91.
Nawaz, M., Enscore, E.E. and Ham, I., “A heuristic algorithm for the m-machine, n-job flow shop
sequencing problem”, OMEGA International Journal of Management Science, Vol. 11 No. 1,
1983, pp. 91-5.
Sinha, R.K. and Hollier, R.H., “A review of production control problems in cellular
manufacturing”, International Journal of Production Research, Vol. 22, 1984, pp. 773-89.
Suresh, N.C. and Meredith, J.R., “Achieving factory automation through group technology
principles”, Journal of Operations Management, Vol. 5, 1985, pp. 151-67.
Treleven, M., “A review of the dual resource constrained system research”, IIE Transactions,
Vol. 21 No. 3, 1989, pp. 279-87.