The application of process planning in the Irish furniture and wood products Industry
In its simplest form process planning is the preparation of a list of the sequence of processes, applied to material in a manufacturing facility, to bring it to a useable part or product. Process planning can be seen as an integral component of the design-to-manufacture cycle. There is a shortage of available research and other supporting material relevant to the design-to-manufacture cycle in the furniture and wood products industry. This shortage is more acute in the context of the major changes in production technology that have overtaken the industry in the last 20 years, predominantly flexible computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining centres. Even though CNC technology is abundant in the Irish furniture and wood products industry, companies were not utilising it to full potential. This feedback led the research work towards looking specifically at the application of process planning methods. The practice of process planning is common in other manufacturing industries as are the benefits. Research conductcd in this project found no evidence of any formal process planning being used in the Irish furniture and wood products industry. Further study revealed that the decision to make a component on a particular machine was based on the decision makers training, experience and personal preferences, and not based on any calculation of the most productive method. Thus the primary objective of this thesis became the development of a methodology for process planning that will support product engineering efforts, and guide design and production decisions involving traditional and modem technology. Results from workshop based process planning trials, revealed extraordinary differences in experienced people’s process plans, for the manufacture of the same product in the same manufacturing facility. Process planning decisions were found to be influenced by peoples experiences with certain processes and not based on any formal thought process as to the most economical solution. Process planning guidelines were developed for a limited number of woodworking processes. These guidelines were applied in a sample exercise using intelligent spreadsheet logic with a range of process and part parameters and a knowledge base of previously recorded set-up and processing times. They achieved more favourable results than any of the eight process planners involved in the trials. The guidelines were then integrated into a process planning methodology to demonstrate how such a decision tool might be utilised in a larger product development approach. Finally, a list of functionality is given for a process planning decision support system based on the results of the research.
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