Analyzing the Tradeoff Between Efficiency and Flexibility in Cellular Manufacturing Systems

V. R. Kannan


A limitation of Group Technology (GT)-based cellular manufacturing systems is that their limited routing flexibility offsets the setup and material handling efficiencies they offer. Virtual Cellular Manufacturing (VCM) systems do not encounter the problem of limited routing flexibility, but do not yield the same efficiencies as GT-based cellular systems. This study compares the performance of a GT-based cellular manufacturing system that utilizes operations overlapping to further improve material flow efficiency with that of a virtual cellular manufacturing system. Results suggest that while the use of operations overlapping in a GT-based cellular manufacturing system can to some extent compensate for the system’s low routing flexibility, it cannot fully overcome the high flow time variance that results from the permanent dedication of machine resources. As a result, GT-based cellular manufacturing performs comparably to VCM only under a limited set of conditions.