Decomposition-based real-time control of multi-stage transfer lines with residence time constraints

Feifan Wang, Feng Ju

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


It is commonly observed in the food industry, battery production, automotive paint shop, and semiconductor manufacturing that an intermediate product’s residence time in the buffer within a production line is controlled by a time window to guarantee product quality. There is typically a minimum time limit reflected by a part’s travel time or process requirement. Meanwhile, these intermediate parts are prevented from staying in the buffer for too long by an upper time limit, exceeding which a part will be scrapped or need additional treatment. To increase production throughput and reduce scrap, one needs to control machines’ working mode according to real-time system information in the stochastic production environment, which is a difficult problem to solve, due to the system’s complexity. In this article, we propose a novel decomposition-based control approach by decomposing a production system into small-scale subsystems based on domain knowledge and their structural relationship. An iterative aggregation procedure is then used to generate a production control policy with convergence guarantee. Numerical studies suggest that the decomposition-based control approach outperforms general-purpose reinforcement learning method by delivering significant system performance improvement and substantial reduction on computation overhead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-959
Number of pages17
JournalIISE Transactions
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2021


  • Residence time
  • decomposition-based control
  • multi-stage transfer line
  • real-time control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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