Balancing of mixed-model parallel U-shaped assembly lines considering model sequences
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As a consequence of increasing interests in customised products, mixed-model lines have become the most significant components of today's manufacturing systems to meet surging consumer demand. Also, U-shaped assembly lines have been shown as the intelligent way of producing homogeneous products in large quantities by reducing the workforce need thanks to the crossover workstations. As an innovative idea, we address the mixed-model parallel U-shaped assembly line design which combines the flexibility of mixed-model lines with the efficiency of U-shaped lines and parallel lines. The multi-line stations utilised in between two adjacent lines provide extra efficiency with the opportunity of assigning tasks into workstations in different combinations. The new line configuration is defined and characterised in details and its advantages are explained. A heuristic solution approach is proposed for solving the problem. The proposed approach considers the model sequences on the lines and seeks efficient balancing solutions for their different combinations. An explanatory example is also provided to show the sophisticated structure of the studied problem and explain the running mechanism of the proposed approach. The results of the experimental tests and their statistical analysis indicated that the proposed line design requires fewer number of workstations in comparison with independently balanced mixed-model U-lines.