Reconfiguration of Virtual Cellular Manufacturing Systems via Improved Imperialist Competitive Approach

Chunfeng Liu, Jufeng Wang, Meng Chu Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This paper constructs an integrated virtual reconfiguration model that can simultaneously group workstations, schedule virtual cells, and select energy consumption levels. If managers prefer the physical proximity of machines in a certain virtual cell, the material handling cost in it can be reduced. However, the distances among machines in other virtual cells are probably large, which may cause greater material handling cost. If a virtual cell for a certain product type has priority to be created, the backorder cost of that type can be decreased or even avoided. Nevertheless, the creation of virtual cells for other product types may be delayed, perhaps leading to the higher backorder cost of other product types. In addition, managers can choose a high energy consumption level of a machine to expedite its production to reduce backorder cost at the expense of more energy consumption cost. To minimize the total operational cost, we develop a novel Discrete Imperialist Competitive Algorithm with a Priority rule-based heuristic (DICAP). It includes a colony movement strategy, a competition strategy, a collapse mechanism, a development strategy, and a sufficient convergence policy. Numerical experiments and t-test are conducted to validate that the proposed DICAP outperforms genetic algorithm and simulated annealing. Note to Practitioners - Virtual cellular manufacturing systems can create an expectation of improving machine utilization and productivity, reducing reconfiguration cost, and adaptation to product specification changes in reality. However, managers often feel difficult to make appropriate decisions for three interrelated issues, i.e., workstation grouping, virtual cell creation and release, and energy consumption options. Workstation grouping depends on the availability of machines and workers, and the availability may be related to the creation and release time of some virtual cells. Whether a virtual cell is created in time has an influence on the selection of energy consumption levels, because managers need to consider both backorder cost and energy consumption cost. In addition, there often exists a bottleneck workstation in each virtual cell. Therefore, it is essential and worthwhile to select appropriate energy consumption levels of machines to smooth the production efficiency of grouped workstations. To effectively address the issues, this paper presents an integrated virtual reconfiguration model. A novel Discrete Imperialist Competitive Algorithm with a Priority rule-based heuristic is developed to minimize the total operational cost. Numerical experiments and t-test results indicate that the proposed algorithm outperforms two commonly used ones, i.e., genetic algorithm and simulated annealing in solution quality. It is suitable for virtual reconfiguration problem with industrial size in practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8573904
Pages (from-to)1301-1314
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Cellular manufacturing system
  • energy consumption
  • imperialist competitive algorithm (ICA)
  • scheduling
  • virtual reconfiguration


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