During the last decade, the European manufacturing industry has experienced a growing trend towards customization and personalization. As a response to increasing global competition and changing customer needs, there has been increasing attention to achieving shorter time-to-market, and manufacturing products for smaller market segments. Throughout this paper, the term ‘high variety products’ will be used to describe products that contain at least one product part with a customized geometry. There are two primary aims of this study. First, to illustrate the current challenges that Small- and Medium-sized manufacturers face with high variety products. Second, to explore how these challenges can be addressed systematically. Assembly tasks within existing manufacturing systems for high variety products typically involve a combination of manual labor and automatization. As geometrical variation is considered complex for automation, cost considerations can hinder increasing the level of automation in assembling high variety products. However, this objection might not be legitimate. Hence, this paper proposes a new design method to improve decision making for cost-effectively realizing high variety products. Two core findings of this study include: First, the achievable product variability of a production process depends on the process step least robust to geometrical variation. Second, the adjustability of product design is regarded as an enabler for customization and increased automatization of the production process.
- Design MethodAutomationvarietyIndustry 4.0Manufacturing System