Publication Abstract

A Simulation Decision Support System for Rapid Comparison of Lean Vs Batch Furniture Manufacturing Systems

Steele, P., Hill. T. W., & Walden, C. (2007). A Simulation Decision Support System for Rapid Comparison of Lean Vs Batch Furniture Manufacturing Systems. United States Forestry Service .


The U. S. furniture industry is losing market share to imports at an accelerating rate. Surviving firms must increase their competitive positions or market share loss will continue to increase. Lean manufacturing methods applied to furniture manufacturing have demonstrated that dramatic productivity increase is possible. Adoption of lean manufacturing methods is probably more difficult for furniture manufacturing than for some other industries, such as the auto industry. However, experience has shown that furniture companies can apply lean methods if an unwavering commitment is made. Managers in all industries, but particularly those involved in furniture manufacturing, find that lean principles are contrary to their intuition which has been developed by long practice in batch manufacturing methods. For that reason clear demonstration of the potential for improvement offered by a change to lean methods is invaluable for convincing managers to adopt lean manufacturing. Computer simulation provides a means to compare lean and existing batch systems to determine the magnitude of possible improvements in productivity. Animated discrete event simulations allow virtual observations of the effect of changes in work flow. However, the difficulty of developing models with these advanced systems is such that, in practice, such comparisons of manufacturing systems are rare for industries of the size of the typical furniture manufacturing operation. Simplification of the simulation interface will allow rapid and easy comparisons of lean with batch systems would allow managers to virtually observe the improved results to be expected on their plant floor. Investigators have developed a Decision Support System (DSS) that provides the framework which will allow non-technical users to easily interact with simulation and optimization models. This project will modify the DSS for application with models of furniture manufacturing operations. The goal is to allow managers to compare lean with their current batch manufacturing performance rapidly and with very limited training. At most a one-day training session should be required. Minimal training could be provided with a DSS user’s manual with a tutorial. The current DSS software will be adapted to enable rapid and intuitive comparisons of typical batch processes with a lean manufacturing system. Managers will be able to utilize process parameters that reflect conditions in furniture manufacturing operations. A user’s manual with tutorial will be developed. Two one-day workshops will be provided; one in Princeton, WV and one in Canton, MS.