An integrated approach to production logistics and factory IT optimization for photovoltaic manufacturing
Designing, constructing and operating thin-film-based production lines requires careful planning of logistics and IT aspects. In this paper an integrated approach is presented that helps to overcome current and upcoming challenges in both areas. Starting from a set of typical logistics planning and optimization issues, such as the definition of the appropriate tool set and the optimal configuration of material handling systems, simulation is introduced as a powerful tool to support their resolution. Besides, a set of typical IT planning and optimization issues in the shop floor IT environment is being introduced. These are addressed by extending the logistics simulation model and by connecting it to the shop floor applications, especially the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) using suitable communication interfaces. In this context the simulation model servers the purpose of visualizing control results and state information in complex interrelated systems on the one hand and provides "real-world-like" feedback to the coupled software applications on the other hand. This approach simplifies the setup of a powerful IT test environment while gaining insights into the logistics behavior of the production line simultaneously. Thereby, this approach has the potential to speed up the planning and optimization phases. Nevertheless there are limitations that need further research. A more indepth modeling of equipment is required to provide full interaction capabilities. Besides that a single discrete event simulation model cannot represent the real world parallelism of events.