In industry, when flexible manufacturing systems are designed within a group technology approach, numerous decision-taking processes emerge requiring control of the multiple characteristics of the system. In this context, several grouping problems are identified within the scope of combinatorial optimisation. Such is the case of the part families with precedence constraints problem, which is defined in order to set up families where the total dissimilarity among the parts placed in the same family is minimal and precedence constraints, as well as capacity constraints arise when grouping parts. The present paper describes the use of an improved genetic heuristic to tackle this problem. It comprises a standard genetic heuristic with appropriate operators, improved through specific local search. In order to study the performance of the improved genetic approach, a special purpose constructive heuristic plus an earlier version of the genetic heuristic were implemented. CPLEX software was used from a binary linear formulation for this problem. Computational results are given from the experiment performed using test instances partly taken from the literature while others were semi-randomly generated. The improved genetic heuristic produced optimal solutions for most of the shortest dimension test instances and acted positively in relation to the constructive heuristic results, over almost all the instances. As for the CPLEX it found optimal solutions only for the small instances, besides which for the higher dimensioned instances CPLEX failed to obtain any integer solutions at all, in 10h running time. Therefore, these experiments demonstrate that the improved genetic is a good tool to tackle high dimensioned test instances, when one does not expect an exact method to find an optimal solution in reasonable computing time. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Flexible manufacturing systems
- Genetic heuristics
- Part families problem