Design and control of agile automated CONWIP production lines

Wallace J. Hopp, Seyed M.R. Iravani, Biying Shou, Robert Lien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


In this article, we study the design and control of manufacturing cells with a mix of manual and automated equipment, operating under a CONWIP pull protocol, and staffed by a single agile (cross-trained) worker. For a three-station line with one automated station, we fully characterize the structure of the optimal control policy for the worker and show that it is a static priority policy. Using analytical models and extensive simulation experiments, we also evaluate the effectiveness of practical heuristic control policies and provide managerial insights on automation configuration design of the line. This characterization of the worker control policy enables us to develop managerial insights into the design issues of how best to locate and concentrate automation in the line. Finally, we show that, in addition to ease of control and greater design flexibility, the CONWIP protocol also offers higher efficiency and robustness than does the push protocol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-56
Number of pages15
JournalNaval Research Logistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Automation
  • Markov decision processes
  • Workforce agility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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