Towards a generic design method for reconfigurable manufacturing systems: Analysis and synthesis of current design methods and evaluation of supportive tools

Ann-Louise Andersen*, Thomas Ditlev Brunoe, Kjeld Nielsen, Carin Rösiö

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


In today's global manufacturing environment, changes are inevitable and something that every manufacturer must respond to and take advantage of, whether it is in regards to technology changes, product changes, or changes in the manufacturing processes. The reconfigurable manufacturing system (RMS) meets this challenge through the ability to rapidly and efficiently change capacity and functionality, which is the reason why it has been widely labelled the manufacturing paradigm of the future. However, design of the RMS represents a significant challenge compared to the design of traditional manufacturing systems, as it should be designed for efficient production of multiple variants, as well as multiple product generations over its lifetime. Thus, critical decisions regarding the degree of scalability and convertibility of the system must be considered in the design phase, which affects the abilities to reconfigure the system in accordance with changes during its operating lifetime. However, in current research it is indicated that conventional manufacturing system design methods do not support the design of an RMS and that a systematic RMS design method is lacking, despite the fact that numerous contributions exist. Moreover, there is currently only limited evidence for the breakthrough of reconfigurability in industry. Therefore, the research presented in this paper aims at synthesizing current contributions into a generic method for RMS design. Initially, currently available design methods for RMS are reviewed, in terms of classifying and comparing their content, structure, and scope, which leads to a synthesis of the reviewed methods into a generic design method. In continuation of this, the paper includes a discussion of practical implications related to carrying out the design, including an identification of potential challenges and an assessment of which tools that can be applied to support the design. Conclusively, further areas for research are indicated, which provides valuable knowledge of how to develop and realize the benefits of reconfigurability in industry.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Manufacturing Systems
Pages (from-to)179-195
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Changeability
  • Literature review
  • Reconfigurable manufacturing design
  • Reconfigurable manufacturing system
  • RMS


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