Flow shop scheduling

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Flow shop scheduling problems, are a class of scheduling problems with a workshop in which the flow control shall enable an appropriate sequencing for each job and for processing on a set of machines or with other resources 1,2,...,m in compliance with given processing orders. Especially the maintaining of a continuous flow of processing tasks is desired with a minimum of idle time and a minimum of waiting time. Flow shop scheduling is a special case of job shop scheduling where there is strict order of all operations to be performed on all jobs. Flow shop scheduling may apply as well to production facilities as to computing designs.

Scheduling is the process of arranging, controlling and optimizing work and workloads in a production process or manufacturing process. Scheduling is used to allocate plant and machinery resources, plan human resources, plan production processes and purchase materials.

Workshop room or building, with tools, used to repair or make goods

Beginning with the Industrial Revolution era, a workshop may be a room, rooms or building which provides both the area and tools that may be required for the manufacture or repair of manufactured goods. Workshops were the only places of production until the advent of industrialization and the development of larger factories. In the 20th and 21st century, many Western homes contain a workshop in the garage, basement, or an external shed. Home workshops typically contain a workbench, hand tools, power tools and other hardware. Along with their practical applications for repair goods or do small manufacturing runs, workshops are used to tinker and make prototypes.[1][2][3]

Machine tool using energy to perform an intended action

A machine is a mechanical structure that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an intended action. Machines can be driven by animals and people, by natural forces such as wind and water, and by chemical, thermal, or electrical power, and include a system of mechanisms that shape the actuator input to achieve a specific application of output forces and movement. They can also include computers and sensors that monitor performance and plan movement, often called mechanical systems.


A special type of flow shop scheduling problem is the permutation flow shop scheduling problem in which the processing order of the jobs on the resources is the same for each subsequent step of processing.

In engineering, a process is a series of interrelated tasks that, together, transform inputs into Automation system. These tasks may be carried out by people, nature or machines using various resources; an engineering process must be considered in the context of the agents carrying out the tasks and the resource attributes involved. Systems engineering normative documents and those related to Maturity Models are typically based on processes, for example, systems engineering processes of the EIA-632 and processes involved in the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) institutionalization and improvement approach. Constraints imposed on the tasks and resources required to implement them are essential for executing the tasks mentioned.

Formal definition

There are n machines and m jobs. Each job contains exactly n operations. The i-th operation of the job must be executed on the i-th machine. No machine can perform more than one operation simultaneously. For each operation of each job, execution time is specified.

Operations within one job must be performed in the specified order. The first operation gets executed on the first machine, then (as the first operation is finished) the second operation on the second machine, and so on until the n-th operation. Jobs can be executed in any order, however. Problem definition implies that this job order is exactly the same for each machine. The problem is to determine the optimal such arrangement, i.e. the one with the shortest possible total job execution makespan. [1]

Sequencing Performance Measurements (γ)

The sequencing problem can be stated as determining a sequence S such that one or several sequencing objectives are optimized.

  1. (Average)Flow time,
  2. Makespan,Cmax
  3. (Average) Tardiness,
  4. ....

detailed discussion of performance measurement can be found in Malakooti(2013).

Behnam Malakooti, is Professor of Systems Engineering of Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), OH, USA. He has been affiliated with CWRU since 1982. He is a pioneer researcher in risk, Operations Management, Manufacturing Systems, multiple criteria optimization. He developed artificial neural networks for predicting decision-making behavior for out-of-sample data. He also pioneered the theory of multiple-objective optimization for solving decision making, operations and manufacturing systems, machinability of materials, Artificial Neural Networks, facility layout, and group technology and clustering.

Complexity of flow shop scheduling

As presented by Garey et al. (1976), most of extensions of the flow shop scheduling problems are NP-Hard and few of them can be solved optimally in O(nlogn), for example F2|prmu|Cmax can be solved optimally by using Johnson's Rule.

Solution methods

The proposed methods to solve flow shop scheduling problems can be classified as exact algorithm such as Branch and Bound and Heuristic algorithm such as genetic algorithm.

In computer science and operations research, exact algorithms are algorithms that always solve an optimization problem to optimality.

Genetic algorithm competitive algorithm for searching a problem space

In computer science and operations research, a genetic algorithm (GA) is a metaheuristic inspired by the process of natural selection that belongs to the larger class of evolutionary algorithms (EA). Genetic algorithms are commonly used to generate high-quality solutions to optimization and search problems by relying on bio-inspired operators such as mutation, crossover and selection. John Holland introduced genetic algorithms in 1960 based on the concept of Darwin’s theory of evolution; afterwards, his student David E. Goldberg extended GA in 1989.

Minimizing makespan,Cmax

F2|prmu|Cmax and F3|prmu|Cmax can be solved optimally by using Johnson's Rule (1954) but for general case there is no algorithm that guarantee the optimality of the solution.
Here is minimization using Johnson's Rule:
The flow shop contains n jobs simultaneously available at time zero and to be processed by two machines arranged in series with unlimited storage in between them. The processing time of all jobs are known with certainty. It is required to schedule n jobs on machines so as to minimize makespan. The Johnson's rule for scheduling jobs in two machine flow shop is given below: In an optimal schedule, job i precedes job j if min{p1i,p2j} < min{p1j,p2i}. Where as, p1i is the processing time of job i on machine 1 and p2i is the processing time of job i on machine 2. Similarly, p1j and p2j are processing times of job j on machine 1 and machine 2 respectively.
The steps are summarized below for Johnson's algorithms:
let, p1j=processing time of job j on machine 1
p2j=processing time of job j on machine 2
Johnson's Algorithm
Step 1:Form set1 containing all the jobs with p1j < p2j
Step 2:Form set2 containing all the jobs with p1j > p2j,the jobs with p1j=p2j may be put in either set.
Step 3: Form the sequence as follows:
(i) The job in set1 go first in the sequence and they go in increasing order of p1j(SPT)
(ii) The jobs in set2 follow in decreasing order of p2j (LPT). Ties are broken arbitrarily.
This type schedule is referred as SPT(1)-LPT(2) schedule.

Other objectives

The algorithm is optimal.

The detailed discussion of the available solution methods are provided by Malakooti (2013).


  1. "posh-wolf website" . Retrieved 28 December 2015.

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