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A Neural Network Based Decision Support System for Real-Time Scheduling of Flexible Manufacturing Systems

Derya Eren Akyol and Ozlem Uzun Araz


Department of Industrial Engineering, Dokuz Eylul University 35100 Bornova-Izmir, Turkey derya.eren@deu.edu.tr, ozlem.uzun@deu.edu.tr Summary. The objective of this study is to develop a neural network based decision support system for selection of appropriate dispatching rules for a real-time manufacturing system, in order to obtain the desired performance measures given by a user, at dierent scheduling periods. A simulation experiment is integrated with a neural network to obtain the multi-objective scheduler, where simulation is used to provide the training data. The proposed methodology is illustrated on a exible manufacturing system (FMS) which consists of several number of machines and jobs, loading/unloading stations and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to transport jobs from one location to another.

1 Introduction
Scheduling as being part of production planning and control, plays an important role in the whole manufacturing process. Although scheduling is a well researched area, classical scheduling theory has been little used in real manufacturing environments due to the assumption that the scheduling environment is static. In a static scheduling environment where the system attributes are deterministic, dierent analytical tools such as mathematical modeling, dynamic programming, branchand-bound methods can be employed to obtain the optimal schedule. However, scheduling environment is usually dynamic in real world manufacturing systems and the schedule developed beforehand may become inecient in a dynamically changing and uncertain environment. One of the most applied solutions to the dynamic scheduling problems is the use of dispatching rules. Over the years, many dispatching rules have been studied by many researchers [4, 5, 11, 12]. However, the choice of

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a dispatching rule depends on the performance criteria considered, and the system conguration and conditions, in other words, on the state of the system and no single rule has been found to perform well for all the performance criteria and all possible states of the system. Therefore, a exible scheduling method that can handle system variation which results from the change of manufacturing conditions is needed to select the best dispatching rule for each particular state of the system. Having the ability to learn and generalize for new cases in short time, in recent years, articial neural networks (ANNs) have provided a means of tackling dynamic scheduling problems. A number of dierent ANN approaches have been developed for the solution of dynamic scheduling problems, most of which are based on the use of backpropagation networks [2, 3, 6, 7, 10]. However, the use of competitive networks in dynamic scheduling environments is sparse. Min et al. [8] designed a dynamic and real time FMS scheduler by combining the competitive neural network and search algorithm to meet the multiple objectives given by the FMS operator. Min and Yih [9] integrated simulation and a competitive neural network and develop a multi-objective scheduler to select dispatching rules for both machine and vehicle initiated dispatching decision variables (for a detailed survey, see [1]). In this paper, we introduce a multi-objective scheduler based on the integration of simulation and a competitive network, parallel to the work of Min and Yih [9]. Here, we study a Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS), where the user considers to improve the value of only one performance measure at each interval. However, by giving the possibility to consider dierent performance measures at dierent intervals, the proposed scheduler serves as a multi-objective tool.

2 Proposed Scheduler
The proposed scheduler is the combination of a simulation model and a neural network. The data needed to train the proposed network is generated through simulation using Arena software (version 10). Two dierent 5000 minute scheduling intervals are taken into consideration during the data collection step. 250 alternative scenarios implementing dierent dispatching rules in each interval are used as training set for the proposed network. Each scenario including two dierent sets of decision variables was simulated for 5 replications and the performance measures and the values of the system status variables at the end of each interval are obtained as simulation outputs. Two sets of decision rules, together with the simulation outputs form the oine training

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examples of the proposed network. The training data is put into the network to classify the decision rule sets into classes according to their similarities. Then, the trained network is used to satisfy the desired performance measures determined by the FMS scheduler at specic intervals.

3 The FMS Model


The performance of the proposed approach is evaluated on an FMS. The FMS considered in this paper consists of seven jobs, six machines, one loading/unloading station and a staging area. Three AGVs are used to transport the parts within the system, each having a travel velocity of 100 feet per minute. When a vehicle completes its task and there are no other requests for transport, the vehicle is sent to the staging area to await the next request. Each job requires ve operations and must visit a certain number of machines and in dierent sequences. The routes of each job are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Operation sequences of each job Job type 1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Operation 2 3 4 5 M4 M2 M5 M2 M4 M4 M3 M1 M6 M3 M6 M4 M6 M5 M6 M2 M6 M2 M6 M4 M6

M4 M1 M3 M1 M5 M4 M2 M3 M3 M1 M2 M1 M3 M4

Three decision variables are considered and dierent dispatching rules are examined with respect to these decision variables. Decision variables and the associated dispatching rules used are as follows: Selection of a load by an AGV (SPT- shortest processing time, FCFS-rst come rst served, LCFS-last come last served, EDD-earliest due date), Selection of load by machine (SPT, FCFS, EDD, CR-critical ratio, Slack, MDD-Modied due date, WSPT-Weighted shortest processing time), and Selection of an AGV by a load (Cyclical, Random, Smallest Distance First, Largest Distance First). Table 2 shows the performance measures and system status variables considered in this study.

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Derya Eren Akyol and Ozlem Uzun Araz Table 2. Evaluation criteria

Performance Measures Mean tardiness (MT) Mean ow time (MFT) Total number of tardy jobs (TNTJ) Total weighted ow time(TWFT)

System status Average number waiting in machine queues Average utilization of machines Mean waiting time in queues

The proposed network is developed using the software, NeuroSolutions 5. After training the network, classication results are obtained for 250 scenarios which include the current and next decision rule pairs to be implemented. The decision rule sets are assigned to 5 dierent classes. According to this, out of 250 rule sets, 113, 15, 7, 35 and 80 of them belong to class 1, class 2, class 3, class 4 and class 5, respectively. At the beginning, the system is scheduled using the randomly determined decision rules. Then, to investigate the eectiveness of the proposed approach, the manufacturing system is controlled at ve different 3000 minute intervals, after a warm up period of 5000 minutes. At each control point, current performance measure values, current system status variable values, desired performance measure values of the decision maker are fed into the network to determine the class of the decision rule set to be used for the next interval. Among the decision rule sets in the determined class, the rule set which improves the performance measures the most, is chosen as the next decision rule set to be used.

4 Experimental Results
The performance of the proposed approach is evaluated at dierent scheduling points, relative to four dierent performance measures, mean ow time, mean tardiness, total number of tardy jobs, and mean weighted ow time. In the oine scheduling approach, the system is scheduled using the randomly determined rule set 3-3-2 (LCFS rule for the rst decision variable, EDD rule for the second decision variable and random selection rule for the third decision variable) in all the intervals. In the proposed dynamic scheduling approach, after the current interval ends which was scheduled by the rule set 3-3-2, the next decision rules are determined by the neural network which considers the desired objectives given by the decision maker. The rule sets determined by the proposed approach are 2-4-3, 1-5-3, 2-2-3 and 4-5-2 for the second, third, fourth and the fth interval, respectively.

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From examination of the performance measures at each rescheduling point given in gure 1, it is seen that by employing the dispatching rules determined using the proposed scheduler at each period, superior solutions are obtained over the oine scheduling approach.

Fig. 1. Performance measures at each period (rescheduling point)

5 Conclusions and Future Research


This paper explored the combined use of competitive neural networks and simulation, as a multi-objective scheduler, to select the appropriate dispatching rules for an FMS. By the proposed method, it is possible to discover dispatching rules that will be eective for the next production interval. The results of the study showed that monitoring the system conditions at intervals and changing the rule set correspondingly, rather than using the same rule set during the whole production period, provides signicant improvements in the value of system performance measures. An area for future research could be to develop a methodology to select the appropriate rule set to be used for the next interval, among the rule sets in each class. Another possible extension

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of the proposed method might be, to investigate the eects of the AGVs on the selection of the next decision rules.

References
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