Workload balancing capability of pull systems in MTO production

R. Germs*, J. Riezebos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Pull systems focusing on throughput time control and applicable in situations with high variety and customisation are scarce. This paper compares three unit-based pull systems that can cope with such situations: POLCA, CONWIP and m-CONWIP. These systems control the shop floor throughput time of orders by limiting the number of orders on the shop floor. However, their effectiveness in terms of reducing total throughput time is questioned. Theory states that an improvement in the average total throughput time will be due to the workload balancing capability of a pull system, but that many pull systems lack this capability. This paper shows that this workload balancing capability exists for POLCA and m-CONWIP, but not for CONWIP. The magnitude of the effect differs strongly, depending on the configuration of the system, the order arrival pattern and the variability of the processing time of the orders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2345-2360
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Production Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • make-to-order production
  • workload balancing
  • pull systems
  • m-CONWIP

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