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Development of Flow Concepts in the Assembly of Variant-Rich Small Series with Consideration of Technical and Economic Aspects

(Project duration: April 2014 to August 2016; project processing is carried out by RIF e.V., Department of Work and Production Systems, Production Automation Division)


The strong expansion of product ranges in the course of mass customisation in combination with the stagnating growth in demand in the markets of the industrial nations leads to decreasing production volumes per variant offered and strong fluctuations in the type-quantity mix. Consequently, flexible production processes are needed that are capable of efficiently fulfilling customer orders despite high variability and small series. The compulsion to increase the efficiency of production processes and thus competitiveness is further intensified by increasing competitive pressure in the course of globalisation. One starting point for increasing efficiency from the point of view of lean production systems is consistent flow-oriented production. In particular, production in clocked flow lines requires a product spectrum that is as homogeneous as possible, for which the clocking out of the line, i.e. the assignment of operations to work stations of the line, can be carried out by means of operations research methods.

In the assembly of small series of products with a large number of variants, the methods for clocking out that were developed for large series cannot be used. The high number of individual products and their variants lead to complex production processes and increasing demands in the organisation of production, since the assembly tasks often differ. The result is a complex synchronisation of the flow line, since a specific allocation of AVO and stations must be selected for each product, the line must be retooled correspondingly frequently and the material supply must be adapted accordingly. In most cases, the advantages of the flow orientation cannot justify this high effort in de-clocking and in the operational running of flow lines. As a consequence, the products are often manufactured on a quantity basis, in equipment-oriented production, since here no detailed planning is necessary for the distribution of work content, it is easier to react to fluctuations in the type-quantity mix and capacity planning can be carried out on an aggregated level in relation to the order.


The aim of the MicroBatchFlow research project is to develop a process that enables the design of flow concepts in the environment of multi-variant small batch assembly. In the context of the research project, a flow concept is the combination of the selection of products to be assembled on the line, the design of the flow line and its operational control.


ProcedureThe research project is divided into seven work packages in which three subsystems are developed and combined in the last work package. Work packages 1 and 2 aim to develop an approach that selects from the totality of products to be assembled those that are sufficiently similar on the basis of the product and process data to be assembled together on a flow line without incurring set-up costs in the line. Work packages 3 and 4 build on these results and investigate how suitable line balancing can be created for the product groups identified in this way. In the last step, work packages 5 and 6 develop a sub-system that determines a suitable production sequence for the different product groups, taking into account the specific product groups, the respective line balancing and the resulting set-up costs. In the last work package 7, these subsystems are summarised and transferred to a demonstrator.

Funding Reference

The IRD project (18170) of the research association Gesellschaft für Verkehrsbetriebswirtschaft und Logistik e.V. - GVB, Wiedenweg 2, 93352 Rohr is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology via the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF) within the framework of the programme for the promotion of joint industrial research and development (IRD) on the basis of a resolution of the German Parliament.

Location & approach

Technische Universität Dortmund

Institut für Produktionssysteme / IPS

Leonhard-Euler-Str. 5

Gebäude MB I

44227 Dortmund

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Otto-Hahn-Straße 6

Raum: C1-02-177

(Entry 31)

44227 Dortmund

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Interactive map

The facilities of TU Dortmund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the university are located in the adjacent "Technologiepark".

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