Highly Automated Production Line Planning and Optimization

Problem:




Centrotherm Photovoltaics AG is a global supplier of technology and equipment for the photovoltaics, semiconductor, and microelectronics industries. The company needed to identify the best automated production line and factory configuration to minimize costs and maximize throughput and reliability. Specifically, they needed to:


  • Determine the type and amount of required equipment needed to fulfill production plans.
  • Evaluate different layout alternatives to improve the throughput and utilization rate.
  • Inspect possible bottlenecks in the material flow.
  • Evaluate operator behavior impact on the factory output.
  • Test the consequences of maintenance within various time frames.
  • Identify system behavior in case of breakdowns.
  • Identify scrap probability.
  • Evaluate change of performance during planned downtimes.

The ACP-IT consultants used AnyLogic simulation and modeling technology to provide the answers.


Solution:





Using AnyLogic Professional’s ability to create and save custom object libraries, the consultants encapsulated their vast simulation experience in the photovoltaic and semiconductor manufacturing industries and created their own libraries, which they reused in many projects, including this one. These libraries featured elements built on top of the AnyLogic model development environment and allowed the consultants to easily model different kinds of equipment, material handling systems inside factories, personnel, and production control systems, all specific to the photovoltaic and semiconductor industries. In the Centrotherm project, this solution helped modelers quickly reproduce various aspects of the client’s production system behavior. 


Once the model was built, the experimentation phase of the project began. The consultants tested many parameters to find the best solutions. The input data, that included layout configurations and various parameters, was taken directly from Excel and Access files. Each simulation run reproduced one year of factory operation.


First, the consultants experimented with the overall production line design, using parameter variation and optimization. They tested many parameters; including those concerning capacity and the number of various pieces of equipment, cassettes, bins, etc., to see which configurations would work best in terms of throughput, reliability, and scrap rate.




Production Line Simulation Logic
Production Line Simulation Logic


Then the consultants worked to optimize transportation policies, buffer zone allocation, and watermark control processes. Some of the proposed layout variants were rejected during this stage due to their poor performance.


Finally, they tested the resulting few solutions manually to investigate the benefits and drawbacks of each one, and to find out how they could be further improved.


Outcome:




The proposed solutions provided Centrotherm Photovoltaics AG with the opportunity to significantly improve the production line design and choose the best solution in terms of throughput, reliability, and scrap rate at a low cost.


Additionally, at the end of the project, the model was released to the client so that it could be used for analysis of future change in the factory. The model allowes the customer to carry out their own experiments, playing with parameters and layout, changing input data, etc. This manufacturing facility simulation model will serve as a decision-support tool at the factory for a long period of time.

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