Workload control (WLC) is a lean oriented system that reduces queues and waiting times, by imposing a cap to the workload released to the shop floor. Unfortunately, WLC performance does not systematically outperform that of push operating systems, with undersaturated utilizations levels and optimized dispatching rules. To address this issue, many scientific works made use of complex job-release mechanisms and sophisticated dispatching rules, but this makes WLC too complicated for industrial applications. So, in this study, we propose a complementary approach. At first, to reduce queuing time variability, we introduce a simple WLC system; next we integrate it with a predictive tool that, based on the system state, can accurately forecast the total time needed to manufacture and deliver a job. Due to the non-linearity among dependent and independent variables, forecasts are made using a multi-layer-perceptron; yet, to have a comparison, the effectiveness of both linear and non-linear multi regression model has been tested too. Anyhow, if due dates are endogenous (i.e. set by the manufacturer), they can be directly bound to this internal estimate. Conversely, if they are exogenous (i.e. set by the customer), this approach may not be enough to minimize the percentage of tardy jobs. So, we also propose a negotiation scheme, which can be used to extend exogenous due dates considered too tight, with respect to the internal estimate. This is the main contribution of the paper, as it makes the forecasting approach truly useful in many industrial applications. To test our approach, we simulated a 6-machines job-shop controlled with WLC and equipped with the proposed forecasting system. Obtained performances, namely WIP levels, percentage of tardy jobs and negotiated due dates, were compared with those of a set classical benchmark, and demonstrated the robustness and the quality of our approach, which ensures minimal delays.
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