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Techniques for process scheduling for Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM)-based systems have used linear programs in the past, but these cannot easily incorporate heuristic knowledge or inherent production flexibility. Expert systems technology is now being applied to this area, and substantial benefits are being obtained.
The business drivers which require such systems, and the facilities which must be provided by a scheduling system designed to meet current and future business needs, are essential factors that need to be evaluated to implement these systems.
Today's process manufacturing environment is evolving at a rapid and increasing pace. The shift towards large, commodity-producing continuous process plants, which occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s, is being rapidly reversed in the 1990s. This movement towards specialisation is, of course, market driven, and results in a far greater range of products of any given type.
Not only must a production facility cope with this movement, but also it must operate in a more financially aware manner. Throughout industry, large stocks are being rendered obsolete in favour of a just-in-time approach which is, again, market driven.
The net results of these changes are an increase in the range of products produced, a corresponding decrease in the typical quantity of each, and a significantly shorter delivery time. For a typical production process, be it batch or continuous, that means a far higher rate of grade change. These grade changes, however, have a negative impact on …