Planning for Flexible Manufacturing
Planning techniques are used in conjunction with scheduling techniques to automate the process of making front axles for heavy vehicle applications.
What is the challenge that is being addressed?
Meritor manufactures rear and front axles for heavy vehicle applications. The manufacturing process is a complex, multi-step process that requires many different types of machinery. Machining Area planners and Department planners are expert workers at Meritor that create machining plans, i.e., when to process each step and using which machine, based on available orders, available machines, and their capacity, as well as some expert knowledge of the process and the machines. This work is very time-consuming, and it takes years of practice for a new human planner to become proficient. In addition, any change in the chain (cancelled order, broken machine) results in cost-heavy adaptation. Automating (part of) this process would make the work of the human planners easier and free time for other tasks that cannot be automated.
What is the AI solution the project plans to implement?
The solution will first require extracting expert knowledge from the human planners and formalizing it in a way that can be used in automated planning. Then, it will implement a scheduling-based approach to create a machining plan using expert knowledge, order input, and available stock. Finally, it will integrate the possibility of replanning in case of unforeseen events. The plan will be given to the human planners in a format similar to the one they use currently, allowing them to tune and adjust it if needed. It will be optimized to reduce the wear of the machines while guaranteeing that all client’s orders are processed on time.