Research on merging lines is expanding as their use grows significantly in the contexts of remanufacturing, reverse logistics and developing economies. This article is the first to study the behavior of unpaced, reliable, and unreliable merging assembly lines that are deliberately unbalanced with respect to their coefficients of variation (CV). Conducting a series of simulation runs with varying line lengths, buffer storage capacities and unbalanced CV patterns delivers intriguing results. For both reliable and unreliable lines, the best pattern for generating higher throughput is found to be a balanced configuration (equal CVs along both parallel lines), except for unreliable lines with a station buffer capacity of six. In that case, the highest throughput results from the descending configuration, i.e. concentrating the variable stations close to the beginning of both parallel lines and the steady stations towards the end of the line. Ordering from the least to most steady station also provides the best average buffer level. By exploring the experimental Pareto Frontier, this study shows the combined performance of unbalanced CV patterns for throughput and average buffer level. Study results suggest that caution should be exercised when assuming equivalent behavior from reliable and unreliable lines, or single serial lines and merging lines, since the relative throughput performance of some CV patterns changed between the different configurations.
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- Assembly line balancing
- Average buffer level
- Coefficient of variation
- Unreliable merging lines