ASSEMBLY LINE DESIGN

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Method and implementation

Research approach

It is said that the three major checkpoints in any research start from formulating a prob-lem, then the collection of empirical data through observation of various sources of information regarding the problem formulated and connecting the collected data with the available problem-specific research papers which are already published (Jacobsen, 2002).
The the end results of this research work are expected to be qualitative and hence the flexible design of the qualitative approach is implemented.
The figure above depicts the research approach followed, using the case study approach. All the empirical data is collected from the case company regarding the LB criteria which set up the firm base to the structure of this research work. To collect the empirical data from the case company, interviews were adapted as the best option as it was nec-essary to have a deeper knowledge about the problem. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a specific set of questions which led to discussions. The company’s historical documents such as demand trends, company structure, plant layout was analyzed using document analysis as the secondary source of empirical data for (RQ1). Another data collection technique which was used are observations. Observations was chosen to validate the line balancing criteria which were collected through interviews and document analysis, it was made sure through the observations that all the LB crite-ria are seen on the assembly line in real time.
The literature review was done to build the theoretical base of this report which includes various definitions and concepts needed to be known before going deeper into the sub-ject area. Literature review is also done to narrow down the knowledge gap regarding the multi model line balancing techniques which the company are unaware. The arrows in the Figure 5 represent the flexible nature of this research design. It is said to be flexible because there were a lot of iterations in the very beginning of this research where based on the literature knowledge obtained the aim and research questions were modified a few times, meanwhile the literature search took us back and forth throughout the process. The top most part of the diagram which is called as roof represents the results of this research, which is strongly supported by all the other sections of this report.
This research started by understanding a specific theory by conducting the literature review and then choosing the topic of research and framing the research questions. Later suitable data was collected from the case company and analyzed the data in the last section to get to the conclusions. Hence this design becomes iterative and nonlinear in nature. The figure above depicts the qualitative and iterative research design where one can see that there is a two-way arrow marks between every step which is the nature of it (Williamson, 2002).

Research methods

Case study approach

The case study is a method which investigates a phenomenon in a real-life context (Yin, 1994). The case study approach was chosen for this research because it was very ap-propriate to the Electrolux context where there was a need to examine and understand a specific context.
It is a single-case study as this research heads to solve a problem which is specific to a single company. Anyhow the results can be generalized to the manufacturing industries with a similar environment as Electrolux such as multi model straight assembly lines with batch production.

Research techniques

Literature review

Literature review is nothing but gathering all the available theories and research papers regarding the topic of interest, which enhances the knowledge we have with respect to the research topic and gives the knowledge which is required to carry out the topic of research. (Jesson et al., 2011). This research has a two-step approach in doing the liter-ature review, where the first step is the traditional review and the second step is the systematic review. In the traditional review process, papers were searched based on a set of keywords with all possible combinations such as Line balancing, Mixed model, Line optimizing, Customization, workload balancing, Precedence constraints etc. (Jes-son et al., 2011).
Later the systematic approach of the literature review was implemented where the pa-pers which were very close to the research topic and those which were helpful to build the research were chosen after reading the abstract and content of the paper.
Literature review in this research was used to build a theoretical base to understand the concept of Line balancing and for defining a few terms which are largely used in the concept of Line balancing. Literature review was also used to search for the research papers which deal with the Line balancing techniques which closely match to the line balancing scenario of the case study company which is Multi model single sided straight type. The papers which deal with the Multi model single sided straight type with its objective to balance the work load across the assembly lines are summarized in the theoretical findings sections.
The literature search was done using the three search engines Primo, Scopus and Sci-ence Direct, these three searching sites are relevant to articles related to technology. Because most of the advancements in line balancing are recent, time line filter was set between 1985 to 2017. With the term “Assembly line balancing” a total of 216205 hits in Primo, as little as 2632 hits in Scopus and 599829 hits in Science Direct were found. Since these are vast number of papers and the probability of having papers which are not relevant to this research was high, the combination of keywords such as Multi model line balancing, Line balancing constraints, Multi model, Single sided, Work load dis-tribution were added for the filter. Then the number of papers reduced to around 800 to Further, the titles and abstracts were read to check if the papers can contribute to the aim and research questions of this research. For the papers which were in ambiguity with its content, the problem descriptions and the conclusions were read. Finally, 10 papers which were useful for this research were found. Later using the snowball tech-nique, few more papers were found which helped to build the whole report.

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Interviews

Interviews are the most used data collection techniques for a case study, it is a technique which is used when you are planning to extract qualitative data and when it is hard to arrive at the desired information just with simple survey questions. With the interviews, a deeper knowledge is obtained on a specific case (Williamson, 2002). There are three distinct types of interview techniques which are structured, semi structured and unstruc-tured. The type of interviews adopted in this research was semi-structured where there was a scope to divert from the topic to a certain extent while giving knowledge on other topics which could be useful. There were definite set of questions designed in the inter-view guide, the interview guide can be seen in the “appendix 2”. The interview ques-tions were direct while the list of LB criteria listed from the literature review was given to the interviewees and asked for their relevance in the Electrolux context. Care was taken according to the interview guide to design the questions. These questions led to informal discussions about diverse topics while giving insight and deeper understand-ing about the company problem. Purposive sampling was done to pick the interviewee candidates who had key information of the subject and could contribute to the purpose.

Observations

Observations fall under ethnographic techniques. Observation is the most flexible data collection technique which is available. There is no proper defined way to perform ob-servations, they can be designed according to the context. There are a few ways in which the researcher can do the observations. The different types of observations are best ex-plained by (Glense and Peshkin, 1992) in their research.
For this research, the entire process was observed standing next to the participants in the participants point of view. This helped to identify some patterns of line balancing criteria and to observe rare failures which resulted in the stoppage of a whole line for one complete day (Williamson, 2002).

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 Document analysis

The historical documents are a collection of data. Relevant documents when observed and analyzed for over a period shall give a lot of information which might be helpful for the present research work being carried out (Williamson, 2002). In this research various documents from the case company were analyzed to find out if there is some information regarding the LB criteria. The documents which were analyzed include customer demand sheets, operator work instructions, product variation sheets, plant and line layout

Data analysis

As this research is qualitative in nature, there is no proposed theory or a method by any of the researcher’s which can be followed to carry out the data analysis. There is liberty to perform the data analysis in one’s own way. Anyways, pertaining to this thesis the data analysis is done by taking the points into consideration mentioned in the research paper written by (Williamson, 2002). Firstly, all the data collected through observa-tions, semi structured interviews and historical research were transcribed onto paper. It was clear what to look out for in the transcribed data because the literature review was done well before. For example, the patterns such as yearly variations in products 520 and 595 were observed in the transcribed data. Once these data were found, they were categorized into different line balancing criteria. This helped in completing the analysis and concluding the report. Qualitative data is something which gives you a meaning or views of the researcher regarding a specific topic, and hence it is dealt with the qualita-tive data in this research, a deductive approach was followed which allows to confine and group the collected data according to the research questions

1 Introduction
1.1 BACKGROUND
1.2 PROBLEM DESCRIPTION
1.3 PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.4 DELIMITATIONS
1.5 OUTLINE
2 Theoretical background 
2.1 ASSEMBLY LINE DESIGN
2.2 CHARACTERISTICS OF ASSEMBLY LINES
2.3 ASSEMBLY LINE BALANCING PROBLEMS
2.4 THEORETICAL LINE BALANCING CRITERIA
3 Method and implementation 
3.1 RESEARCH APPROACH
3.2 RESEARCH METHODS
3.3 RESEARCH TECHNIQUES
4 Findings and analysis 
4.1 THEORETICAL FINDINGS RQ 1 .
4.2 EMPIRICAL FINDINGS
4.3 ANALYSIS
5 Discussion and conclusions
5.1 DISCUSSION OF METHOD
5.2 DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
5.3 CONCLUSIONS
5.4 FUTURE WORKS
6 References 
7 Appendices
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