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Reconfiguration: a key to handle exceptions and performance deteriorations in manufacturing operations


During a manufacturing operation, exceptions may occur dynamically and unpredictably. Their occurrence may lead to the degradation of system performance or, in the worst case scenario may interrupt the production process by causing errors in the schedule plan. This paper classifies three families of exceptions: (1) out-of-order events such as machine breakdowns, (2) operational out-of-ordinary events such as rush orders and (3) deteriorations of manufacturing resource performance such as reductions of machines' utilization. In all cases, in order to maintain an adequate level of system performance, it is necessary to detect exceptions, to diagnose them quickly and to recover them by taking corrective actions to avoid fault propagations. Decisions concerning how to deal with exceptions, i.e. which strategy to implement, depend on the manufacturing environment (dedicated line, flexible system, reconfigurable system or a mix of them) and the advantages arising from using a certain exception handling policy vary from one production system to another. The activity of reconfiguring manufacturing resources has been demonstrated to be a powerful operation strategy to handle machine breakdowns. This paper extends the concept of 'reconfiguration for exception handling' to other families of exceptions and proposes reconfiguration for their recovery. The reconfiguration process is handled by an agent-based control system that implements four negotiation processes among manufacturing resource agents.