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Variability-based machine allocation planning for customer order-specific production in SMEs (VariPro)

(Project duration: september 2017 to december 2019)


Problem Definition

In classic lean production, there is usually no distinction between value-adding and non-value-adding variability, although the former is an important competitive factor, especially for companies involved in customer-order-specific production. For example, a high product variety and the possibility of accelerated order processing are important, decisive competitive factors. However, the adaptation of lean manufacturing methods and techniques is not effective here. The reason for this is that the customer-induced variability with regard to product diversity and delivery times as well as the erratic customer call-offs and strongly fluctuating working stocks associated with this counteracts efficient production control.


Due to this high variability and the increased flexibility requirements, significantly greater production planning and control effort is required. Accordingly, machine allocation planning (MBP) as a core element of production planning and control must be designed in such a way that the value-adding variability prevailing in customer order-specific production is taken into account according to demand. There is currently no production control concept that adequately takes this problem into account.


The aim of the research project is to develop a variability-based MBP for SMEs in customer-specific production, which will be used in operational production planning. This methodology enables the users to profitably use value-adding variability so that a considerable increase in efficiency is achieved in the MBP and thus in production. For this purpose variability criteria are derived, analytically described and transferred into a quantitative optimization problem. This serves as the basis for an IT-supported MBP, which determines the optimal production process according to the order situation under consideration of individual framework conditions.

The research idea is based on the hypothesis that a differentiation into value-adding and non-value-adding variability is a decisive competitive factor, especially for SMEs that produce to order. The derivation of variability criteria as well as the cascading and quantification of these is necessary in order to be able to make economic decisions on the basis of the prevailing variability, so that the potential competitive advantage can be adequately realized.

Procedure and Division of Labour

The research project is divided into four consecutive work packages (variability description and requirement definition for the MBP, conception of the variability-based MBP, validation, documentation and result transfer). At the beginning, variability criteria are developed that are suitable for the description of value-adding variability. These criteria are cascaded and transformed into a hierarchical form. Subsequently, those criteria are selected which are of the greatest importance for production control. Suitable calculation methods are determined for this selection and calculable key figures are established. Any existing cause-effect relationships between these key figures are determined and finally a key figure tree is generated for the quantitative mapping of the cascaded variability criteria. This tree can be used to derive requirements for the optimization problem to be used. These requirements determine the possibility to adapt or extend already existing "(Flexible) Job Shop Scheduling" problems for the research project. In a next step, variability related constraints and restrictions are formulated for the optimization problem. Finally, the developed optimization problem is transferred into an easy-to-use IT tool.

Übersichtsgrafik zu dem Projekt VariPro

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Secretariat IPS
Tel.: 0231 755-2652

Funding Note

The IGF project (19683 N / 1) of the Forschungsvereinigung Gesellschaft für Verkehrsbetriebswirtschaft und Logistik e.V. - GVB, Wiesenweg 2, 93352 Rohr was funded by the AiF within the framework of the programme for the promotion of joint industrial research and development (IGF) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology on the basis of a resolution of the German Bundestag.