Scholarly article on topic 'Improving Factory Planning by Analyzing Process Dependencies'

Improving Factory Planning by Analyzing Process Dependencies Academic research paper on "Computer and information sciences"

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Procedia CIRP
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{"Condition Based Factory Planning" / "Virtual Production Intelligence" / "Integrative Information Model" / "Key Performance Indicators"}

Abstract of research paper on Computer and information sciences, author of scientific article — Christian Büscher, Hanno Voet, Tobias Meisen, Moritz Krunke, Kai Kreisköther, et al.

Abstract Production companies in high-wage countries face growing complexity in their production conditions due to increasing variance and shorter product lifecycles. To enable the needed flexibility in production with respect to short-term changes, factory planning has to be transparent in such a way that the effects on production are traceable. Therefore, a modular planning approach combined with a continuous information management is necessary. The combination of the approaches of Condition Based Factory Planning and Virtual Production Intelligence provides the basis for an analysis of process dependencies during factory planning projects. This analysis is supposed to increase transparency of information flows and to reach traceability.

Academic research paper on topic "Improving Factory Planning by Analyzing Process Dependencies"

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Procedía CIRP 17 (2014) 38 - 43

Variety Management in Manufacturing. Proceedings of the 47 th CIRP Conference on Manufacturing


Improving Factory Planning by Analyzing Process Dependencies

Christian Büschera*, Hanno Voetb, Tobias Meisena, Moritz Krunkeb, Kai Kreiskötherb, Achim Kampkerb, Daniel Schilberga, Sabina Jeschkea

a Institute of Information Management in Mechanical Engineering (IMA) of RWTH Aachen University, Dennewartstraße 27, 52068 Aachen, Germany b Chair of Production Management, Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of RWTH Aachen University, Steinbachstraße 19, 52074

Aachen, Germany

Corresponding author. Tel.: +49-241-80911-38; fax: +49-241-80911-22. E-mail address:


Production companies in high-wage countries face growing complexity in their production conditions due to increasing variance and shorter product lifecycles. To enable the needed flexibility in production with respect to short-term changes, factory planning has to be transparent in such a way that the effects on production are traceable. Therefore, a modular planning approach combined with a continuous information management is necessary. The combination of the approaches of Condition Based Factory Planning and Virtual Production Intelligence provides the basis for an analysis of process dependencies during factory planning projects. This analysis is supposed to increase transparency of information flows and to reach traceability.

© 2014ElsevierB.V.Thisisanopenaccessarticle under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selectionandpeer-review under responsibilityofthe International Scientific Committee of "The 47th CIRP Conference on Manufacturing Systems" in the person of the Conference Chair Professor Hoda ElMaraghy"

Keywords: Condition Based Factory Planning; Virtual Production Intelligence; Integrative Information Model; Key Performance Indicators

1. Introduction

Due to globalized markets and worldwide activities, nowadays, companies have to deal with higher market dynamics in a highly volatile production environment [1,2]. Since companies from high-wage countries cannot compete with companies from low-wage countries from a cost perspective, they try to meet the customers' demands by offering highly individualized and customized products [1]. A core competence for this strategy is the handling of short product and technology lifecycles, which are necessary to surpass competitors. Nevertheless, such a shortening changes the way of factory planning. A constant optimization of production processes as well as a higher flexibility regarding short-term changes and a consequent value orientation in the planning process become necessary [2,3].

These requirements result in multiple challenges. To ensure a high flexibility for short-term changes in factory planning projects, the planning process has to be analyzed more

precisely. Dependencies between process steps have to be more transparent than they are today in order to increase traceability of changes within the planning process and their effects on production. Such an analysis of process dependencies has to take into account that knowledge within factory planning processes is dispersed among different experts and is used in independently developed methods [4]. Additionally, for the quantitative evaluation of the planning success and a systematic decision support during the planning process, enhanced information processing techniques are needed.

Solutions have been developed within the Cluster of Excellence "Integrative Production Technology for HighWage Countries" at RWTH Aachen University. An advanced approach to guarantee a high transparency during factory planning processes is the concept of "Condition Based Factory Planning" (CBFP). CBFP has been employed to facilitate the factory planning process without restricting its flexibility. To achieve this aim, the process is decomposed into standardized

2212-8271 © 2014 Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the International Scientific Committee of "The 47th CIRP Conference on Manufacturing Systems"

in the person of the Conference Chair Professor Hoda ElMaraghy"


planning modules [5]. This modularity enables a detailed analysis of the different planning tasks.

Additionally, an integrative concept called "Virtual Production Intelligence" (VPI) has been developed [6]. It indicates a concept that enables product, factory and machine planners to plan products and the production processes collaboratively and holistically [6]. The concept comprises methods and procedures to consolidate and to propagate data that is generated from historical and simulated data in real and virtual production. Furthermore, it includes visualization and interaction techniques to analyze and to explore the stored information. The concept focusses on the setup of a domain specific integrative information model which provides the possibility of an integrated analysis of the process characteristics and an improved decision support.

This paper introduces a way to combine both approaches, CBFP and VPI, to improve factory planning. The integration of an integrative information model into the underlying IT-system of the VPI enables the technical system to interact with the user efficiently by using the domain specific models and semantics of the CBFP. Thus, several challenges have to be approached. At first, a robust and extendable information model is necessary to facilitate the required analysis of process dependencies during runtime. Furthermore, provided data has to be mapped to the formalized information model. Here, adaptive information integration is used so that data is annotated with its semantic concepts during the integration process and, as a result, can be interpreted by the system [7]. On this basis, key performance indicators (KPI) for dependency analysis in factory planning are provided and implemented in a software demonstrator along with the analysis algorithms.

To reach these objectives, the following questions will be answered in the present paper:

• How can the planning modules of the CBFP be supported by an integrative information model?

• Which algorithms are relevant when analyzing process dependencies within factory planning processes?

• Which relevant KPI summarize the gain of information and support factory planners with regard to their decision making?

2. Related work

Existing factory planning approaches often have a deterministic and analytical point of view. They divide the factory planning process in several discrete, consecutive phases [8]. For these different phases, standard workflows are defined based on an ideal information flow. These standard workflows induce the desired output of a phase in a minimum amount of time. The factory is typically divided into different elements such as the building, production facilities or logistics, which are planned by different experts who are skilled in their particular trade and who therefore have particular knowledge [9]. In reality, the knowledge exchange between the different experts is often not conducted adequately. As a consequence, every discipline mainly works in its specific field of expertise.

Due to the strong temporal orientation of these existing approaches, a weak spot consists in the fact that the process adaptability and flexibility are extremely limited when it comes to changes during factory planning projects. If e.g. production quantities change during the project, the existing models provide no solution to deal with the changed planning situation. Due to the low transparency with regard to changed information in classical approaches, the whole workflow has to be passed through again to secure that no effect caused by the changes is ignored. This leads to massive time losses [5].

Another problem is that classical approaches do not consider the specific requirements of factory planning projects. By offering one standard workflow for all factory planning projects, it is impossible to cover all individual characteristics of a specific project. E.g. in a reconfiguration project of an already existing plant, some planning steps as the plant structure planning might not be necessary as, in this case, the plant structure already exists. On the contrary, the same planning steps become relevant when a completely new plant is planned. Thus, the standard workflow leads to an inefficient planning process as the whole factory planning process is not tailor-made but over-engineered.

Factory planning processes are mainly influenced by the knowledge of experts and are therefore significantly shaped through experience values. Based on historical production and planning data, experts adapt information to the requirements of the current planning process to gain a qualitative evaluation of different scenarios [4]. During this process, the planning is gradually enhanced by taking into account additional constraints and boundary conditions in order to face the requirements of the real factory [10]. Thus, one aim of the current research consists in systematizing the knowledge of experts, which is a core element in factory planning.

In the past, different approaches to use knowledge and experience values within planning processes have been researched and developed in several fields of production and business management such as Decision Support Systems (DSS) [11] and Business Intelligence (BI) systems [12,13]. In terms of factory planning, such systems are employed to process both historical data generated during former planning processes as well as data determined in simulation applications used during the process. This is expected to guarantee the propagation of well-structured data to people involved in the planning process in an appropriate form [14]. In this context, numerous software solutions exist providing IT support within the planning phase. However, most of the existing systems are standalone solutions that focus on one aspect of the planning task. Therefore, these heterogeneous systems are insufficient with regard to the evaluation of the overall planning process [15].

In order to apply the idea of BI on the different IT solutions of a manufacturing enterprise - and therefore following the idea of the Digital Factory [16] - the term has to be extended on the fields of management and on the production level at the same time. According to [7], an integrative solution to serve the desired interoperability between heterogeneous, distributed systems was presented with the adaptive information integration, which is the basis for the VPI approach presented in this paper.

Based on this approach, an integrative information analysis and the evaluation of an entire process become possible. To present the gained information, key performance indicators can be used. KPI are mainly employed for planning, management, analysis and monitoring purposes [17], but can generally be used for any process evaluation and decision support. KPI achieve significance particularly in conjunction with the process goals and by considering the entire process [18]. This requires a consistent calculation of KPI, their consistency, the demarcation of the areas of application and the correct understanding of their information content.

As all factory planning tasks have been divided into several modules with all of them using specific input and output information, it is obvious that the management of these data and the pieces of information within a factory planning project becomes very complex. The CBFP approach provides a theoretical construct for the information flow, but does not contain an integrative information model handling all data along the process: this model is realized through the coupling of the CBFP approach with the VPI.

3.2. Virtual Production Intelligence (VPI)

3. Methods

3.1. Condition Based Factory Planning (CBFP)

As an answer to the weaknesses of existing factory planning approaches described in chapter 2, the concept of Condition Based Factory Planning has been developed within the Cluster of Excellence [5]. The main idea of CBFP is to structure the different planning tasks not with regard to a temporal chronology but with regard to their contents. In CBFP, the single planning tasks are encapsulated in different planning modules with defined input and output information (see Fig. 1). Due to the resulting dependencies between the modules, the planning process is determined.

The planning process within the single modules is standardized, which leads to significant time savings in factory planning projects. The required information of the single modules is linked by particular dependencies. The visualization and analysis of these dependencies lead to a higher transparency within the project. E.g. if changes occur, the project team can directly trace the changes and effects on the specific planning modules by analyzing the dependencies between input and output information of different modules.

Within the single modules, the transformation of input into output information takes place. For this transformation, in CBFP, different matrices within the specific modules were developed, which indicate the input information that is needed in order to generate the output information. In the module Layout planning, a specific list of required machines including their characteristics as dimensions or connections for power supply is needed to generate a detailed layout.

For single modules, it has also been investigated whether specific pieces of output information can be generated automatically without being in need of a human planner using his experience and intuition to derive and evaluate his planning results. For the different modules, software tools have been collected, which are useful and applicable for the specific planning tasks.



Production program

Replenishment time

Material cost

Service level

Set-up costs

Material supply

Buffer number

Supply type

Supply lot size

Supply frequency

Buffer levels

Fig. 1. Planning module material supply [5]

"Virtual Production Intelligence" (VPI) focuses on the integrated handling and analysis of information generated in the context of virtual production. It follows the idea of Luhn, who coined the term "business intelligence system" in 1958 [12]. Herein, he describes principles and operations of a fully-automatized system that facilitates the processing and its propagation to the responsible departments within an enterprise. Here, intelligence is defined as "the ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action towards a desired goal" [12]. Nowadays, business intelligence is used as an umbrella term for applications of every description that facilitate the access to and the analysis of information with the aim to improve and to optimize decision, overall efficiency and performance [14].

VPI refers to the mentioned concept of an integrated handling and analysis of information generated in the context of virtual production. The concept pursues three main objectives, which are [6]:

• Holistic: Addressing all sub processes of product development, factory and production plan etc.

• Integrated: Supporting the usage and the combination of already existent approaches instead of creating new and further standards.

• Collaborative: Considering roles, which are part of the planning process, as well as their communication and delivery processes.

Hence, the VPI represents a contribution to and a necessary major step towards the realization of the digital factory addressing the major challenges interoperability, user interaction as well as visual analysis and simulation [16]. The IT system that provides functionality and visualization capabilities to offer, in turn, solutions to the users to overcome these challenges is called VPI platform. The main goal of the VPI platform comprises the reduction of planning efforts and the increase of planning efficiency by providing an integrative analysis and its presentation in terms of a cockpit [19].

This requires the definition of the underlying integrated information model. Using the already mentioned adaptive information integration, data can automatically be transferred between the sources and the data sinks. Furthermore, data can be consolidated for analysis [20]. Such an information-centered approach facilitates a structured information management that makes an integrated and efficient data access possible, e.g. by supporting structured query languages. Methods and tools for data analyses and evaluation, such as Data Warehousing and OLAP (On-Line

Virtual Production Intelligence Platform

Factory Planning

Production Planning

Product Planning

Production Control

Technology Planning

Production Logistics

Assistive System for Planning and Decision Support by Providing an Integrative and Explorative Analysis

Fig. 2. VPI platform [6]

Analytical Processing), facilitate various possibilities to manipulate and to maintain existing data [21].

The platform serves for planning and support concerns by providing an integrated and explorative analysis in various fields of application. Fig. 2 illustrates how the platform is used by various user groups in these fields of application.

4. Application scenario

The integration of the domain specific models and semantics of the CBFP into an integrative information model, which serves as a basis for the underlying VPI platform, enables the factory planner to get a holistic and transparent view of the whole planning process. The objective of the application scenario presented within this paper consists of an IT based analysis of process dependencies and its presentation to the planner. Due to the analysis and the presentation, the planner is enabled to react shortly to unforeseen changes in the planning process. As a consequence, he can adapt further planning steps more efficiently.

To consolidate the approaches aforementioned, in a first step, a small application scenario for factory planning projects has been developed. To reduce the complexity of the planning situation, only seven modules were analyzed in this scenario. These seven modules represent the most important factory planning modules, which are relevant in almost every factory planning project from reconfiguration up to new plant projects. The different information and planning data of these modules have to be managed and relations have to be analyzed intuitively and dynamically over time by making use of the VPI platform. The modules and the rough relations between them are illustrated in Fig. 3.

The selected modules show a high diversity and heterogeneity with regard to the required data and also in their structure (cf. Fig. 1). Whereas the module Profitability calculation uses data e.g. taken from accounting, in the module Product analysis, very detailed information concerning the design department is analyzed. Additionally, there is a strong interdependence between these different

Process analysis

Product analysis

Production program analysis

Profitability calculation

modules so that aspects like the traceability of changed information or the transparency in data management can be tested in-depth. Consequently, these modules form a basis for a "prototype" within the application scenario.

Using this application scenario, a software demonstrator will be developed as part of the VPI platform that supports factory planners with regard to the information management in planning projects. The mentioned advantages as transparency and a content-based project structure of CBFP must be opened up and disadvantages, especially the complex data management, must be prevented. In this connection, the software demonstrator will continuously be developed and successively be completed with other modules from CBFP.

5. Results

5.1. Information model, consistency checking and analysis

Following the concept of VPI, the information model of the regarded domain has been formulated. The information model is directly generated from results of expert interviews and data sources used in the context of the analysis. It is modeled as an ontology and is therefore used as an explicit specification of the vocabulary and the valid constraints of the specific domain. Furthermore, description logic based reasoning becomes possible, so that constraint violations or unspecified but implicitly valid information can be extracted.

In the following example, the dependencies between module parameters are regarded (see Fig. 4). The information model used for this restricted example consists of two base concepts, namely Module and Parameter. A module is further described by some meta-attributes like its name. Furthermore, the relation between Module and Parameter is specified. A module consists of parameters, whereby a parameter is related to one or more modules as either input or output. Besides, parameters are related, if an input parameter affects an output parameter when being changed. The first inter-relation is described by introducing the relation isParameterOf and its inverse form hasParameter. Similarly, the second interrelation is described by the relations isDependentOf and isRelatedTo. Using these relations, the additionally defined concepts ModuleParameter, InputParameter and OutputParameter can be derived for the domain.

Fig. 3. Planning modules in the application scenario

Fig. 4. Excerpt of information model regarding module parameter dependencies

After having generated the information model, the mappings between the information model and the concrete

data sources were defined. Using these mappings, integration services were implemented by using the ADIuS framework [7], which is an implementation of the mentioned adaptive information integration. The implemented services provide two functionalities: First, they facilitate the autonomous extraction, transformation and loading of data from the data source into a database. Second, the data is automatically described using concepts of the information model. In the example suggested above, an integration service has been established to extract the data from a Microsoft Excel document into a MySQL database.

The integration process is finished by a consistency check to verify, for example, data quality. Therefore, the provided and implicit derived information is forwarded to a consistency checking module. The rules to validate the consistency are directly extracted from the information model and are based upon the formulated vocabulary. E.g. by using the rule

$p : Parameter ( )

not Module( hasParameter( $p ) )

protocol( "Inconsistent parameter: "+ $p )

it is checked, whether each defined parameter is at least related to one module.

The integration process is fully automated. In case of inconsistent data or other unexpected problems, the user is informed via the user interface. In case of a successful integration, the user is enabled to further evaluate the data using visual analysis or provided key performance indicators. The underlying user interface is presented in section 5.2.

5.2. VPI platform for factory planning

The VPI platform is fully accessible via a provided web interface. It gives access to different analysis methods and visualizations. In the following, the exemplified analysis of module parameter dependencies is presented. After having finished the integration process, the user can directly access the integrated data and evaluate it. For the evaluation, different views, currently the module viewer and the parameter analysis, are provided. The module viewer (see Fig. 5) provides a simple data visualization of the integrated and derived data. On the left side, the different available modules are shown, whereas on the right side, the input and the output parameters (parameters) of the selected module as well as the relations between these parameters (matrix) are displayed.

Fig. 6. Module and parameter selection within parameter analysis

The parameter dependencies can be analyzed by making use of the parameter analysis (see Fig. 6). First, the user selects the module and the input parameter that has to be analyzed more detailed. Second, the user triggers the analysis.

The server-side evaluation uses a breadth-first search algorithm to identify parameters that are affected when the given input parameter is changed during the planning process. In each step, the algorithm uses the provided and derived parameter relations for the identification of changed output parameters. In the first cycle, these parameters are used to identify modules whose input parameters are changed. They define the first set of parameters that is further evaluated in the next cycle. Each such result set is pruned by parameters that have been evaluated in a previous cycle. Such a pruned set defines the next set of parameters that is evaluated. The evaluation process is stopped when no more changed parameters can be identified. As the set of input parameters is limited and within each cycle, at least one parameter is removed from this set, the algorithm terminates.

The evaluation result is visualized in the parameter analysis view (see Fig. 7). The view shows the changed input parameters of each module, whereby the level of dependence gets lower from left to right meaning that the directly affected input parameters are shown at the left-most position. Furthermore, the user can highlight the interrelation between the parameters (as shown in the figure).

5.3. KPI for dependency evaluation

Besides the pure analysis and visualization of the process dependencies, KPI have been developed to evaluate the dependencies. In a first step, the number of direct dependencies of a parameter is calculated and displayed in the evaluation results. This represents the complexity of the modifications' impact of one parameter. Based on these direct dependencies, correlation matrices for all parameters are developed, which have not been implemented, yet.

Furthermore, a KPI for dependency evaluation has been derived:

>,i — Z7=i

Fig. 5. Display of integrated data within the module viewer

This KPI considers for each parameter i all dependencies found within the analysis cycles. In addition, it rates each parameter according to its degree of dependence to a parameter j with a factor of xi,j. This factor is not determined manually, but automatically rule-based. On the one hand, the factor has a static part, which is related to the level of dependence (cf. section 5.2). On the other hand, a dynamic part expresses the specific process situation within a precise factory planning project. If e.g. a parameter j has already been

Fig. 7. Display of evaluation result

determined but depends on a parameter i which has to be changed, the factor increases as parameter j has to be calculated again. Thus, the planning process slows down. This information helps increasing the transparency of factory planning. (The dynamic aspect has not been implemented yet but is part of future improvements of the demonstrator.)

6. Conclusion and Outlook

In this paper, the approaches of Condition Based Factory Planning and Virtual Production Intelligence have been focused. The described application scenario, in which both approaches are consolidated, helps to increase transparency within factory planning processes by providing analysis algorithms of process dependencies. Parameter information of selected CBFP modules can be integrated into the presented demonstrator as a part of the VPI platform. Thus, dependencies between the process parameters can automatically be analyzed and visualized, which has to be done manually so far.

In the next steps, the demonstrator will be extended. Templates and standardized data formats for the planning modules are generated so that not only the theoretical parameters but even the precise values within a planning project can be integrated. By using these standardized data formats, the completeness and a high quality of the data are ensured. These standard templates are also the precondition for an automation of the transformation within the planning modules. Furthermore, additional modules of the CBFP will be integrated into the demonstrator to model any kinds of factory planning projects. At the same time, the analysis algorithms will be improved, more KPI such as a measure of the planning stability will be developed and the visualization in terms of a cockpit will be enhanced. Finally, the demonstrator will be used in actual factory planning projects to evaluate the improvement in decision support.


The approaches presented in this paper are supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the Cluster of Excellence "Integrative Production Technologies for HighWage Countries" at RWTH Aachen University.


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