Investigation of the criteria and techniques for the distribution of intelligence in computer integrated manufacturing systems

Lucas-Smith, Anthony John Henry (1990) Investigation of the criteria and techniques for the distribution of intelligence in computer integrated manufacturing systems. (PhD thesis), Kingston Polytechnic, .


In an environment of world competition in manufacturing, the application of information technology (IT) is seen an important component in the achievement of performance improvement. Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) is interpreted as the realisation of an IT strategy for manufacturing to achieve competitive advantage. The thesis identifies the growing problems of change and uncertainty in manufacturing which make effective, centralised, monolithic control ever more difficult to achieve by automation. An alternative, more manageable approach is deonstrated in which artificial intelligence (AI) is distributed across an enterprise in order to carry out decision making at the locations where it would naturally take place. The concept of an intelligent nodal architecture has been defined, differentiating between the functions of decision making, recording business transactions and enabling communication. A detailed case study was undertaken of a manufacturer of printed circuit boards to investigate the criteria for effective application of the intelligent architecture to decision making procedures. In the process, the IDEF-O analytical methodology was critically appraised, and the conclusion reached that design based on top-down analysis is inferior to evolutionary design of manufacturing systems. A simulator to support the proposed intelligent architecture was developed using object-oriented, hypermedia software, and tested with a small scale factory model. The simulator, then applied to the case study, demonstrated the potential for improving performance using Kanban techniques implemented by means of distributed intelligent nodes. It was also observed that AI based simulation could provide better planning tools than centralised systems such as MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning). In conclusion, evidence was provided to support the use of distributed intelligence in manufacturing automation and an intelligent architecture proposed and tested using simulation. The research shows potential for commercial development.

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