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The Flexibility of production processes: a general framework

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Various models have been developed over the years to analyse the many facets of the flexibility of production and operation systems. This paper proposes a general framework for the modelling and analysis of flexibility. The argument hinges upon the distinction between flexibillity (a property of the technology) and diversity (a property of the environment in which the technology is operated). Flexibility is characterised as a hedge against diversity. Intuitive strategic properties that are conventionally attributed to flexibility are shown to follow directly from this framework. As illustrated by the different examples that are discussed, many existing models can be naturally interpreted in this context. As an application, the effect of load imbalance on a set of parallel machines is analysed. The problem sheds light on the role of flexibility in queueing network and lotsizing models of production

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