A novel optimization approach for segmented rabbit chase oriented U-type assembly line design: an application from lighting industry

Emre Cevikcan*, Mehmet Bulent Durmusoglu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Rabbit chase (RC) is used as one of the most effective techniques in manufacturing systems, as such systems have high level of adaptability and increased productivity in addition to providing uniform workload balancing and skill improving environment. In assembly systems, RC inspires the development of walking worker assembly line (WWAL). On the other hand, U-type assembly lines (UALs) may provide higher worker utilization, lower space requirement and more convenient internal logistics when compared to straight assembly lines. In this context, this study aims to improve assembly line performance by generating RC cycles on WWAL with respect to task assignment characteristics of UAL within reasonable walking distance and space requirement. Therefore, a novel line configuration, namely, segmented rabbit chase-oriented U-type assembly line (SRCUAL), emerges. Design/methodology/approach: The mathematical programming approach treats SRCUAL balancing problem in a hierarchical manner to decrease computational burden. Firstly, segments are generated via the first linear programming model in the solution approach for balancing SRCUALs to minimize total number of workers. Then, stations are determined within each segment for forward and backward sections separately using two different pre-emptive goal programming models. Moreover, three heuristics are developed to provide solution quality with computational efficiency. Findings: The proposed mathematical programming approach is applied to the light-emitting diode (LED) luminaire assembly section of a manufacturing company. The adaptation of SRCUAL decreased the number of workers by 15.4% and the space requirement by 17.7% for LED luminaire assembly system when compared to UAL. Moreover, satisfactory results for the proposed heuristics were obtained in terms of deviation from lower bound, especially for SRCUAL heuristics I and II. Moreover, the results indicate that the integration of RC not only decreased the number of workers in 40.28% (29 instances) of test problems in U-lines, but also yielded less number of buffer points (48.48%) with lower workload deviation (75%) among workers in terms of coefficient of variation. Practical implications: This study provides convenience for capacity management (assessing capacity and adjusting capacity by changing the number of workers) for industrial SRCUAL applications. Meanwhile, SRCUAL applications give the opportunity to increase the capacity for a product or transfer the saved capacity to the assembly of other products. As it is possible to provide one-piece flow with equal workloads via walking workers, SRCUAL has the potential for quick realization of defects and better lead time performance. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, forward–backward task assignments in U-type lines have not been adapted to WWALs. Moreover, as workers travel overall the line in WWALs, walking time increases drastically. Addressing this research gap and limitation, the main innovative aspect of this study can be considered as the proposal of a new line design (i.e. SRCUAL) which is sourced from the hybridization of UALs and WWAL as well as the segmentation of the line with RC cycles. The superiority of SRCUAL over WWAL and UAL was also discussed. Moreover, operating systematic for SRCUAL was devised. As for methodical aspect, this study is the first attempt to solve the balancing problem for SRCUAL design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-510
Number of pages28
JournalAssembly Automation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Assembly line balancing
  • Heuristic
  • Optimization
  • Rabbit chase
  • U-type lines


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