A constraint-based approach for assessing the capabilities of existing designs to handle product variation

  • Jason Matthews

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


All production machinery is designed with an inherent capability to handle slight variations in product. This is initially achieved by simply providing adjustments to allow, for example, changes that occur in pack sizes to be accommodated, through user settings or complete sets of change parts. By the appropriate use of these abilities most variations in product can be handled. However when extreme conditions of setups, major changes in product size and configuration, are considered there is no guarantee that the existing machines are able to cope. The problem is even more difficult to deal with when completely new product families are proposed to be made on an existing product line. Such changes in product range are becoming more common as producers respond to demands for ever increasing customization and product differentiation. An issue exists due to the lack of knowledge on the capabilities of the machines being employed. This often forces the producer to undertake a series of practical product trials. These however can only be undertaken once the product form has been decided and produced in sufficient numbers. There is then little opportunity to make changes that could greatly improve the potential output of the line and reduce waste. There is thus a need for a supportive modelling approach that allows the effect of variation in products to be analyzed together with an understanding of the manufacturing machine capability. Only through their analysis and interaction can the capabilities be fully understood and refined to make production possible. This thesis presents a constraint-based approach that offers a solution to the problems above. While employing this approach it has been shown that, a generic process can be formed to identify the limiting factors (constraints) of variant products to be processed. These identified constraints can be mapped to form the potential limits of performance for the machine. The limits of performance of a system (performance envelopes) can be employed to assess the design capability to cope with product variation. The approach is successfully demonstrated on three industrial case studies.
Date of Award1 Dec 2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorGlen Mullineux (Supervisor) & Anthony Medland (Supervisor)


  • machine design
  • product variation
  • constraints

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