Influence of unbalanced operation time means and uneven buffer allocation on unreliable merging assembly line efficiency

Rodrigo Romero-Silva*, Sabry Shaaban

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Unbalanced, unreliable (UR), unpaced, merging assembly lines are simulated in this study with varying line lengths, buffer storage capacities, imbalance degrees and unequal mean operation time configurations and uneven buffer capacity (BC) allocation. This paper contributes to the literature by suggesting that, in many cases, imbalance can improve merging lines’ performance, as compared to a corresponding balanced merging line. It was found that an inverted bowl or descending patterns for mean operation times (MTs), and an inverted bowl (concentrating BC towards the centre of the line) or an ascending pattern for buffer allocation, result in higher throughput (TR). In terms of average buffer level (ABL), the best pattern is a monotone decreasing order regarding MTs and a monotone increasing order with respect to BC allocation. Additionally, it was found that when considering a profit function, the best performing patterns for UR lines tend to be the patterns that reduce ABL, even when considering very low inventory holding costs; contrary to the behaviour of the profit function in reliable lines, which suggests that either patterns that increase TR or reduce ABL can lead to a good performance, depending on the values of the unitary inventory holding costs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1645-1666
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Production Research
Issue number6
Early online date13 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • average buffer level
  • bowl phenomenon
  • service time means
  • simulation
  • throughput
  • unbalanced merging lines
  • unreliable


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