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Benefits of Skill Chaining in Serial Production Lines with Cross-Trained Workers

Listed author(s):
  • Wallace J. Hopp


    (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-3119)

  • Eylem Tekin


    (Department of Operations Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3180)

  • Mark P. Van Oyen


    (Department of Information Systems and Operations Management, Loyola University Chicago, 25 East Pearson Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611-2196)

Registered author(s):

    To gain insight into the potential logistical benefits of worker cross-training and agile workforce policies, we study simple models of serial production systems with flexible servers operating under a constant work-in-process (CONWIP) release policy. Two important and interrelated issues are: (a) how to decide which skill(s) are strategically most desirable for workers to gain, and (b) how to coordinate these workers to respond dynamically to congestion. We address these by considering two cross-training strategies: a straightforward capacity-balancing approach, which we call cherry picking (CP), and an innovative overlapping zone strategy that we call skill chaining. Our comparison shows that skill-chaining strategies have the potential to be robust and efficient methods for implementing workforce agility in serial production lines.

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    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 50 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 83-98

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:50:y:2004:i:1:p:83-98
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    1. Emil Zavadlav & John O. McClain & L. Joseph Thomas, 1996. "Self-Buffering, Self-Balancing, Self-Flushing Production Lines," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(8), pages 1151-1164, August.
    2. McClain, John O. & Thomas, L. Joseph & Sox, Charles, 1992. ""On-the-fly" line balancing with very little WIP," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 283-289, October.
    3. Askin, Ronald G. & Iyer, Anand, 1993. "A comparison of scheduling philosophies for manufacturing cells," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 438-449, September.
    4. Oded Berman & Richard C. Larson & Edieal Pinker, 1997. "Scheduling Workforce and Workflow in a High Volume Factory," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(2), pages 158-172, February.
    5. Gerard M. Campbell, 1999. "Cross-Utilization of Workers Whose Capabilities Differ," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(5), pages 722-732, May.
    6. Stephen C. Graves & Brian T. Tomlin, 2003. "Process Flexibility in Supply Chains," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(7), pages 907-919, July.
    7. William C. Jordan & Stephen C. Graves, 1995. "Principles on the Benefits of Manufacturing Process Flexibility," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 41(4), pages 577-594, April.
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