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197

CHAPTER 9

SUMMARY OF THE RESULTS

9.1 INTRODUCTION

In this thesis, the issues related to the operation and control of two flexible

manufacturing configurations are addressed. Algorithms for optimal resource utilisation in

those models are designed and analysed. The salient points along with their usefulness of the

various scheduling procedures for the above models are summarised and discussed in this

chapter.

A GA has been proposed to derive the optimum sequence of the jobs for maximum

utilisation of the hardware components (Robot, RGV and Machining centre) of the Set-up

constrained FMC that is analogous to the conventional twin table planner/plano-miller and

subsequently, to provide time table (schedule) for the components of the system. The

proposed GA procedure has been validated by comparing with the results of a few processing

time-related pdrs. The makespan time criterion has been considered as a measure of

performance in the comparative study. The proposed GA is proven capable of providing

optimal sequence for maximum utilisation objective. The computational time to run the GA is

also reasonable. For a problem of size 10, the time taken, to perform 100 iterations and give

the solution, is only 0.6 seconds on PC/AT 486 Dell system. Further, this GA based search can

be easily extended with a change in fitness parameter to generate schedules for other

objectives, such as minimisation of total flow time, minimisation of maximum tardiness,

minimum total tardiness, etc., which have proven to be hard. The rescheduling concept

presented enhance its' use to dynamic environment. In addition to the above, the proposed

methodology is not limited to the specific model and can be extended to general'm' machine

case. Since the attention is given to develop the model and the methodology, the effect of the

ingredients of genetic operators (Crossover type and rate, mutation type and rate) on solution

quality (computation time and optimality) are dealt with in this present work. Future research

needs to develop a systematic approach for determining the values of the major ingredients of

genetic operators.

Scheduling FMS Using Heuristic and Search Techniques

198

Though the GT algorithm is an effective enumerative procedure to provide all feasible

schedules in a job shop environment, enumerating all feasible combinations is highly

complicated and not practicable as the size of the problem (number of jobs and/or processors)

increases. In this context, instead of resolving the conflicts one by one in all possible means,

three heuristics that use GT algorithm in conjunction with pdrs are proposed in this thesis for

scheduling FMS under negligible transportation time with minimum makespan criterion. The

pdrs have been used in three dimensions in the following manners: 1) pdrs to resolve lower

bound TIEs in Greenberg's Branch-Bound technique that uses GT procedure; 2) pdrs to

resolve conflicts among the contending jobs in GT procedure directly; 3) optimal combination

of pdrs (independent pdrs evolved through a genetic search process), one each for one Work

Cell (WC), to resolve the conflicts among the contending jobs in GT procedure. The proposed

methodologies are useful for scheduling general job shop problems

The effectiveness of the above three methodologies is compared in terms of solution

accuracy on the criterion 'makespan time' of the schedule and computational time. The results

of Extended B-B Methodology indicate that no single pdr can break the TIE efficiently and

guarantee an optimal solution, but one among them is expected to provide the optimal value.

It is concluded that no single pdr guarantees optimal solution, but the one among the four

provides optimal solution. This technique takes much more time than the Greenberg's bound

technique and the computational complexity is also high. Direct application of pdrs for

resolving conflict does not guarantee optimal or near optimal solutions and no generalisation is

possible to evolve. The computational time is less compared to the other methods. But the

weakness of this method is that it provides poor solutions most of the time. Application of

genetic algorithm (with Classical Genetic Operators) to this problem is proven fruitful as the

optimal values of the objective function are optimal or very close to the optimal. The values

obtained are comparable with the best solution of the Extended B-B Technique. Also the near

optimal solution can be obtained with reasonable computational time. The optimal

WCwise-pdr is proven efficient in providing optimal solutions with reasonable computational

time.

The GA based heuristic search process is suitable for FMS scheduling problems

because of the below mentioned points.

1. The computational time is reasonable for small to medium sized problems.

Scheduling FMS Using Heuristic and Search Tecluiiques

199

2. The solution is closer to other methodologies and capable of providing solutions nearer

to optimal.

3. By changing the evaluation parameter of the genetic search process, the solution can

be obtained for other suitable objectives and is flexible.

4. The method can be extended with artificial neural work in order to find system specific

operating strategies for the operational management and can be used for the

development of an expert system by inducing scheduling knowledge in FMS

environment.

5. The heuristic search process can be regarded better than simulation in the sense that it

can guarantee near optimal solutions in actual cases, since they provide exact

solutions.

6. Rescheduling with regeneration guarantees the solution quality whatever be the state

of the system parameters and addresses the real time operation.

7. The extensions to handle alternate route choices and to revise the schedules in real

time operations lead to enhance the productivity to a great extent.

In the present work, four simple pdrs have been employed to resolve the conflicts. The

methodology can be extended with more number of pdrs and other objectives. Future research

needs to concentrate in the genetic operators to get convergence faster.

Though the computational time with GA based heuristic is reasonable it grows

exponentially with problem size and requires a fast algorithm to handle reschedules. In this

concern, two knowledge-based scheduling schemes to provide schedules faster than the GA,

irrespective of the size of the problem, are developed. This is an alternate approach to the

off-line rescheduling schemes that are addressed in chapter 5 which generate schedules for 'n*

jobs on'm' WCs under negligible transportation time.

The GA based heuristic that is addressed in chapter 5 is used to generate training

examples. It provides an optimal combination of set of pdrs one each for one work cell 'WC'

{WCwise-pdr set) for each of the problem instances characterised by their WC attributes. The

WC attributes reflect the information about each individual WC's operating environment. Two

inductive learning algorithms are employed to learn the examples and scheduling rules are

formulated as knowledge base. The learning algorithms employed are: Genetic CID3

Scheduling FMS Using Heuristic and Search Techniques 200

(Continuous Interactive Dichotomister3 algorithm extended with genetic program for weight

optimisation) and Classification Decision Tree (CDT) algorithm. The knowledge base

obtained through the above learning schemes generate robust and effective schedules

intelligently with respect to the part-mix changes in real time for makespan criterion.

The comparison made with a GA based scheduling methodology (Chapter 5) show

that WCAODSs provide solutions closer to optimum. Advantages of WCAODSs when

applied to dynamic scheduling are:

1. Learning is done off-line;

2. It has the ability to infer the rules quickly for real time control which is essential for

handling dynamic states of the system;

3. Giffler and Thompson algorithm with Dynamic WCwise-pdr set assures good

schedules and performance;

4. Embedded knowledge acquisition mechanism makes WCAODSs intelligent and

flexible in obtaining required scheduling heuristics which enlarge its application

domain;

5. Compared to other inductive learning methods reported in previous research, the

genetic CID3 minimises the layers and hyperplanes, which are used to formulate the

decision rules, and hence the number of decision rules gets confined and

6. The main advantage is the computational time. WCAODSs require less time than GA

method.

The crucial phase in the proposed methodologies is the acquisition of scheduling

knowledge base that is dependent on many factors such as the number of good training

examples, the number and characteristics of problem attributes, the classes of each attribute,

and the operation environment. Scheduling knowledge is defined with randomly generated

data. Any how that can be defined well for a specific system with its past part mixes data and

the attributes that affect the scheduling process.

One main disadvantage of genetic CID3 algorithm is it is designated to tell two

distinct classes apart; consequently, several neural networks are sequentially generated by the

genetic CID3 algorithm for a multi class classification algorithm. The range of the connection

weights influences markedly on the convergence of NN architecture and learning time in

GCID3 algorithm. So in future, attention can be given to this point. As far as WCAODS2 is

Scheduling FMS Using Heuristic and Search Techniques 201

concerned, better results are possible with more numbers of training examples, attributes and

attribute classes.

Effective sequencing and scheduling of the MHS can have a major impact on the

productivity of the manufacturing system. The integration of the machines into a system,

achieved by the automated material handling and by the overall computer control, can result in

manufacturing systems characterised by flexibility, high productivity and low cost per unit

produced. The role of MHS in FMS is important and further, the operation of MHS requires

co-ordinated effort, as it has to conform to the production schedule. In these aspects, the

problem of AGV schedule to go along with optimal production schedule is considered and a

heuristic algorithm is proposed. The proposed heuristic algorithm uses the production

(machine) schedule, which is obtained neglecting transportation times using either the off-line

schemes or the knowledge based schemes, as the input to derive the modified production

schedule that integrates AGV schedule. This links the operation of AGV with production. It

provides an optimal AGV schedule and in addition to that, it revises the production schedule

accordingly.

The proposed heuristic algorithm employs vdr for conflict resolution. Four different

dispatching rules have been tested using the proposed heuristic. The performance of the vdrs

in the proposed heuristic is tested with randomly generated samples and compared with

makespan criterion. The results show that the STT provides the best solutions compared to

other vdrs

The CPU time is about 0.4 seconds with DELL 486 system and hence very

reasonable. Since it is possible to get off-line schedules for both production and AGV, the

control becomes easier. The heuristic is tested with four vdrs on a pre-specified layout. The

proposed heuristic can be extended and analysed for multi-AGV systems with dispatching

rules such as LIV, NV, RV etc., few more vdrs, and different layouts.

The method of operating an automated warehouse has a considerable effect on its

throughput and design. The performance of the storage system must be sufficient good to

justify the high cost involved. The role of AS/RS in FMS is important and further, the

Scheduling FMS Using Heuristic and Search Techniques 202

schedule. In this context, an attempt is made to link optimally the operation of AS/RS with the

production schedule.

Selection and assignment of a specific storage location for each storing activity,

which arises during the course of production, to minimise the total distance to be travelled by

the S/R machine are dealt with. Two different classes of algorithms, namely heuristics

(Adjacent Vacant Cell with and without considering vacancy and Lower Tier First with and

without considering vacancy) and evolutionary program (GA) are proposed and analysed.

The heuristic 'adjacent vacant cell with vacant cell consideration performs well.

However, the application of evolution programs (with Classical Genetic Operators) to this

problem has proven fruitful as the optimal values (best from 50 iterations) of the objective

function are very close to the values obtained with the adjacent vacant cell heuristic. In the

sample runs, for the medium size data of 10 products and 6 machines, the allocation of storage

locations based on the evolution program has proven to be closer to the adjacent vacant cell

heuristic, which performs better among the inter alia heuristics. Further, the genetic algorithm

outperforms the nearest vacant cell heuristic many times. But in the present work, the concept

of batch size is not taken into account. In such cases, the best optimal allocation is expected

with the genetic evolution program and will perform better than the adjacent vacant cell

heuristic, because, the concept of variability in the number of trips made by the S/R machine to

every storage location does not hold good. The major handicap that one may confront in the

application of evolution programs is the size of the memory of the computer, that is required

for search process.

9.7 CONCLUSIONS

In this thesis, scheduling procedures to tackle various operational level issues in FMS

have been discussed. The GA based methodologies have much scope in FMS scheduling

because of their capability to handle any hard problems. Any how, they require refinement in

certain aspects as outlined below.

1. Development of specific genetic operators for faster convergence with less number of

iterations and to reduce the possibility of getting trapped in the local minima.

2. Combining heuristic knowledge with the GA to have still better solutions.

Scheduling FMS Using Heuristic and Search Techniques

203

The knowledge-based schemes are capable of addressing real time control and is

useful for rescheduling. However, the acquisition of good scheduling knowledge base depends

on many factors such as the number of good training examples, the number and characteristics

of problem attributes, the classes of each attribute, and the definition of the operation

environment. The future research requires to concentrate on the above lines.

The heuristic suggested to generate AGV schedule from the machine schedule that has

neglected MHS provides exact time table of both AGV and machine schedules. This makes

the scheduling an integrated one.

The allocation of WIP in specific locations in AS/RS enhances productivity by

minimising the movements of the AS/RS shuttle.

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