The effects of supply variability on the performance of assembly systems
Assembly processes play a big role in the current business context as global supply chains depend on many subcomponents to produce a single finished product. Previous studies have shown contrasting results regarding the effect that supply variability (the variability of feeding stations) has on the performance of assembly systems, as opposed to the variability of the station matching and assembling the components. This paper aims to close this gap by studying the behaviour of simple assembly systems with differing degrees of variability allocation among the stations through an experimental simulation study. Results suggest that a reduction in feeding station variability results in higher throughput, even in systems where the variability of one of the feeding stations increases while the other decreases. Furthermore, in scenarios with high total variance, the highest throughput is reached by transferring both variance and work from one of the feeding stations to any other station, whereas in low variance systems symmetrical work transfer to the feeding stations results in the highest throughput, as previously shown. Finally, reducing feeding station variability decreased the time spent in the assembly station (waiting time for component matching plus time for the assembly operation) only in experiments with high total variance.