Balancing of parallel u-shaped assembly lines
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A new hybrid assembly line design, called parallel U-shaped assembly line system, is introduced and characterised along with numerical examples for the first time. Different from existing studies on U-shaped lines, we combine the advantages of two individual line configurations (namely parallel lines and U-shaped lines) and create an opportunity for assigning tasks to multi-line workstations located in between two adjacent U-shaped lines with the aim of maximising resource utilisation. Utilisation of crossover workstations, in which tasks from opposite areas of a same U-shaped line can be performed, is also one of the main advantages of the U-shaped lines. As in traditional U-shaped line configurations, the newly proposed line configuration also supports the utilisation of crossover workstations. An efficient heuristic algorithm is developed to find well-balanced solutions for the proposed line configurations. Test cases derived from existing studies and modified in accordance with the proposed system in this study are solved using the proposed heuristic algorithm. The comparison of results obtained when the lines are balanced independently and when the lines are balanced together (in parallel to each other) clearly indicates that the parallelisation of U-shaped lines helps decrease the need for workforce significantly.