Challenges in Global Multi-Variant Serial Production - A Study of Manufacturing Engineering Processes

Sammanfattning: Global manufacturing companies have hard times to manage their global production networks as dispersion in their networks increases. Such dispersion is caused by the increasing level of product variety and more parameters to control as the networks grow. Handling product variety becomes more difficult as products become more complex and integrated. Product variety and its impact on productivity have been studied for several years. Those studies show that product variety has negative impact on productivity. There are no signs that product variety will decrease in the future. Nor are there any signs showing that the size of global product networks will decrease over time. Therefore, it is important to understand how product variety affects global production networks.The aim of this thesis is to investigate how global manufacturing companies operate their production networks in terms of manufacturing engineering processes and operational performance with respect to product variety. Due to the size of global production networks, engineering processes and systems tend to be dispersed. Therefore, the focus of this thesis is on studying manufacturing engineering processes in terms of standards for creating assembly work instructions for manual assembly and the effects of high product variety on operational performance in the same production network. In this study similarities and dissimilarities in such processes are mapped within one global production network.Four different cases studies have been designed and conducted collecting important data defining the setup for the investigated production network. Questionnaires, interviews and production data are used to map current manufacturing engineering processes and to study the effects of high product variety on operational performance. Results from the case studies show that the studied production network handles high levels of product variety and that the manufacturing engineering processes are highly dispersed due to lack of global standards. The high level of product variety has negative impact on operational performance as operators are facing unfamiliar product variants on a daily basis. Furthermore, the high level of product variety makes it more difficult for manufacturing engineering to create better and more supportive assembly work instructions.Future research activities should focus more on early phases of the engineering process. By studying the engineering process in more detail, a mature information model can be created defining (1) what information is used, (2) by whom it is used, (3) where in the process it is used and (4) for what purpose the information is used. Such an information model is essential to be able to develop better methods to handle high product variety in global production networks.