An evaluation process for material handling systems within FMS

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The problem of evaluating new manufacturing technologies, in particular, flexible manufacturing systems (FMS) is a complex one, as its interdisciplinary nature involves multiple variables. These variables are qualitative as well as quantitative, strategic, as well as technological, intangible as well as tangible. This dissertation deals with the problem of the overall evaluation process, in particular, the evaluation of material handling systems within FMS. In particular, automated guided vehicle systems (MVS) are studied from a technical viewpoint, as they are related to strategic and economic considerations.

Two main evaluation frameworks are developed. One integrates multiattribute decision models, namely, the analytic hierarchy process or AHP and the displaced ideal model (DIM), and the other integrates analytical techniques with simulation modeling. As a by product, flexibility indices are also developed for MVS and linked to the fundamental aspects of the evaluation of new technologies. This research also shows how analytical techniques can be combined with simulation modeling to form a more extensive evaluation process that includes opportunity costs as well as the usual tangible costs. Finally, a technical analysis of FMS/MVS is done on some typical cell configurations using the flexibility indices developed in this research.