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OEM Suppliers of very specific, specialized components usually face stiff competition because they are working in a narrow market. When the technology is well-established, and the production process itself is very mature, the next place to look for improving efficiency and reducing costs is in schedule optimization. Manufacturers of piston rings for automotive assembly face the challenge of scheduling and sequencing the multiple grinding processes, the large number of processes involved, and the frequent bottlenecks.
With the many processes involved—from machining, to tensioning, coating, quality inspection, and others—buildup of work-in-process inventory is a problem. These processes can also include multiple bottlenecks, and manual optimal planning becomes a monumental undertaking.
Considering the large number of constraints between these processes, including changeover times and individual resource efficiencies, it is hard to react optimally when a change suddenly happens, such as a rush order coming in, or urgent machinery maintenance.