A Disassembly Optimization Problem

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Virginia Tech

The rapid technological advancement in the past century resulted in a decreased life cycle of a large number of products and, consequently, increased the rate of technological obsolescence. The disposal of obsolete products has resulted in rapid landfilling and now poses a major environmental threat. The governments in many countries around the world have started imposing regulations to curb uncontrolled product disposal. The consumers, too, are now aware of adverse effects of product disposal on environment and increasingly favor environmentally benign products.

In the wake of imminent stringent government regulations and the consumer awareness about ecosystem-friendly products, the manufacturers need to think about the alternatives to product disposal. One way to deal with this problem is to disassemble an obsolete product and utilize some of its components/subassemblies in the manufacturing of new products. This seems to be a promising solution because products now-a-days are made in accordance with the highest quality standards and, although an obsolete product may not be in the required functional state as a whole, it is possible that several of its components or subassemblies are still in near perfect condition.

However, product disassembly is a complex task requiring human labor as well as automated processes and, consequently, a huge amount of monetary investment. This research addresses a disassembly optimization problem, which aims at minimizing the costs associated with the disassembly process (namely, the costs of breaking the joints and the sequence dependent set-up cost associated with disassembly operations), while maximizing the benefits resulting from recovery of components/subassemblies from a product. We provide a mathematical abstraction of the disassembly optimization problem in the form of integer-programming models. One of our formulations includes a new way of modeling the subtour elimination constraints (SECs), which are usually encountered in the well-known traveling salesman problems. Based on these SECs, a new valid formulation for asymmetric traveling salesman problem (ATSP) was developed. The ATSP formulation was further extended to obtain a valid formulation for the precedence constrained ATSP. A detailed experimentation was conducted to compare the performance of the proposed formulations with that of other well-known formulations discussed in the literature. Our results indicate that in comparison to other well-known formulations, the proposed formulations are quite promising in terms of the LP relaxation bounds obtained and the number of branch and bound nodes explored to reach an optimal integer solution. These new formulations along with the results of experimentation are presented in Appendix A.

To solve the disassembly optimization problem, a three-phase iterative solution procedure was developed that can determine optimal or near optimal disassembly plans for complex assemblies. The first phase helps in obtaining an upper bound on our maximization problem through an application of a Lagrangian relaxation scheme. The second phase helps to further improve this bound through addition of a few valid inequalities in our models. In the third phase, we fix some of our decision variables based on the solutions obtained in the iterations of phases 1 and 2 and then implement a branch and bound scheme to obtain the final solution. We test our procedure on several randomly generated data sets and identify the factors that render a problem to be computationally difficult. Also, we establish the practical usefulness of our approach through case studies on the disassembly of a computer processor and a laser printer.

Asymmetric Traveling Salesman Problem, Lagrangian Relaxation, Branch-and-Bound, Disassembly Optimization, Integer Programming