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DBR in the Age of Industry 4.0

Drum Buffer Rope (DBR) has never looked as promising as it does in the age of Industry 4.0.

In today’s production environment, where decision makers are supported by fast processing of mass data, DBR is the best model for focusing management attention and action.

DBR is a planning and scheduling solution derived from the Theory of Constraints. The fundamental assumption of DBR is that within any manufacturing plant there is a limited number of scarce resources (e.g. machine or work center), which control the overall output of the plant. Therefore, called "Constraints". In a given production line there is no more than one constraint.

Industry 4.0 is a name for the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing

technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and cognitive computing. Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a "smart factory".

In recent years, we witnessed a continuous change in marketing trends. In an effort to better align their products with customers' tastes, companies now produce products that suit smaller and more diversified segments of the consumer population.

The sports company, adidas, is an extreme example, offering customized shoes for individual athletes. This trend, on the top of rapid seasonal effects and short product life cycles, leads to shorter and shorter production runs (lots), which require occasional changes to the flow of materials within the plant and to the load on resources.

Traditionally, we used to characterize production lines by type, such as A, V, I, Y, etc. However, the desire to produce a large range of products in small batches can create an interlaced material flow, which looks more like a bowl of macaroni. Not only that, this macaroni bowl keeps changing from one day to another.

Naturally, the constraint of such a production line is not fixed, and at some point, shift from one resource to another. In manufacturing plants, where more than one line share a specific resource, this effect is even more acute. Therefore, it is referred to as a “moving constraint”.

Identifying constraints in such environments becomes an impossible mission when using the usual analytical methods. The number of variables, their dependencies and occasional changes require a different approach in order to apply DBR.

Here, the smart factory of the fourth industrial age goes hand in hand with DBR to create a synchronized production environment.

In the smart factory, the system identifies the migration of constraints much faster than traditional analytical and human-based systems.

In addition, once identifying the constraint (Drum), the system will actuate the signal (Rope) to release materials up the value chain to feed the protecting Buffer. This is the essence of DBR.

Summary

The traditional strategic business objectives - high productivity, just-in-time availability and low inventory – are even more valid in today’s markets than they were in the past. The DBR model, which has proven so effective in achieving these objectives in the past, proves itself again within the smart factory of the early 21st century.

Applying DBR methodology will reflect positively in both the plant performance and the business bottom line.

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