Product design and manufacturing process improvement using association rules

Modern manufacturing systems equipped with computerized data logging systems collect large volumes of data in real time. The data may contain valuable information for operation and control strategies as well as providing knowledge of normal and abnormal operational patterns. Knowledge discovery in databases can be applied to these data to unearth hidden, unknown, representable, and ultimately useful knowledge. Data mining offers tools for discovery of patterns, associations, changes, anomalies, rules, and statistically significant structures and events in data. Extraction of previously unknown, meaningful information from manufacturing databases provides knowledge that may benefit many application areas within the enterprise, for example improving design or fine tuning production processes. This paper examines the application of association rules to manufacturing databases to extract useful information about a manufacturing system's capabilities and its constraints. The quality of each identified rule is tested and, from numerous rules, only those that are statistically very strong and contain substantial design information are selected. The final set of extracted rules contains very interesting information relating to the geometry of the product and also indicates where limitations exist for improvement of the manufacturing processes involved in the production of complex geometric shapes.