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Journal Paper Accepted at the Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing: Measures of reconfigurability and its key characteristics in intelligent manufacturing systems

The LIINES is pleased to announce that the Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing has accepted our paper entitled: “Measures of reconfigurability and its key characteristics in intelligent manufacturing systems”. The paper is authored by Amro M. Farid and was published in October 2014.

Many manufacturing challenges arise with the global trend of increased competition in the marketplace.  Production processes must deal with shorter product lifecycles and mass-customization. Consequently, production systems need to be quickly and incrementally adjusted to meet the ever-changing products. Reconfigurable manufacturing systems have been proposed as a solution that facilitates changing production processes for highly automated production facilities.

Much research has been done in the field of reconfigurable manufacturing systems. Topics include: modular machine tools and material handlers, distributed automation, artificially intelligent paradigms, and holonic manufacturing systems.  While these technological advances have demonstrated robust operation and been qualitatively successful in achieving reconfigurability, there has been comparatively little attention devoted to quantitative design methodologies of these reconfigurable manufacturing systems and their ultimate industrial adoption remains limited.

Measuring reconfigurability of manufacturing systems quantitatively has been a major challenge in the past, since a quantitative reconfigurability measurement process was non-existent. Earlier work developed a measurement method that extracts measurables from the production shop floor. When this was established, basic measures of reconfiguration potential and reconfiguration ease were developed, based on axiomatic design for large flexible engineering systems and the design structure matrix respectively.

Reconfiguration of a production process can be split up in four steps: Decide which configuration, Decouple, Reorganize, and Recouple. The larger the number of elements in the system, the more configurations are made possible. This is measured using the reconfiguration potential measure, based on axiomatic design for large flexible engineering systems.

Production processes contain multiple interfaces within themselves. Multiple layers of control can be distinguished, that have to work together to coordinate the physical components. These interfaces are the main determinants for the reconfiguration ease measure.

This paper combines these techniques to define a quantitative measure for reconfigurability and its key characteristics of integrability, convertibility and customization.    The intention behind this research contribution is that it may be integrated in the future into quantitative design methodologies for reconfigurable manufacturing systems, which may be easily adopted by industrial automation and production companies.

About the author: Wester Schoonenberg completed his B.Sc. in Systems Engineering and Policy Analysis Management at Delft University of Technology in 2014. After his bachelors’ degree, Wester started his M.Sc. at Masdar Institute of Science & Technology. Currently, Wester is working on the integrated operation of electrical grids and production systems with a special interest in the demand side management of industrial facilities.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Duke Energy on Analytics and the Internet of Things

It’s been a long time since 2003 when the concept of the Internet of Things was first proposed by U. of Cambridge Auto-ID Laboratory.  At the time, Dr. Amro M. Farid, now head of the Laboratory for Intelligent Integrated Networks of Engineering Systems, was a doctoral student investigating how RFID technology enabled intelligent products within reconfigurable manufacturing systems.  The Internet of Things was being applied primarily in the manufacturing and supply chain domain.

Since then, the Internet of Things concept has taken hold not just in manufacturing systems and supply chains but nearly every industrial system domain including energy.    Every “thing” or “device” has the potential to be connected via an intelligent sensor so as to make decisions — be they centralized within an operations control center — or distributed amongst artificially intelligent multi-agent systems.   The Internet of Things concept has the potential to fundamentally transform industrial systems.

Have a look at Duke Energy’s take on the Internet of Things:

The LIINES is proud to have been working in this area since its inception and continue to do so.  More information on our research can be found on the LIINES website.

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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ESM 616: Techno-Economic Analyses in Power System Operations

To start off the new semester, we have just developed a page for the ESM 616 Techno-Economic Analyses in Power System Operations class.  The subject seeks to prepare students for the new world of “smart grid” operations.  It specifically seeks to contrast conventional paradigms of power system operations and control with those that will appear in the coming decades.   Emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary, holistic approaches founded upon industrial application and mathematical rigor.  See the LIINES Blog Keywords:  ADWEA — Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority, CIGRE, Control Systems Engineering, DEWA — Dubai Water & Electricity Authority, Dynamic Systems Modeling, Enterprise Control, Graph Theory, IEEE, IEEE CSS, Large Complex Systems, Model-Based Systems Engineering, Operations Research, Power System Economics

Good luck to all as we kick off the Spring Semester.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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ESM 501 Systems Architecture

To start off the new semester, we have just developed a page for the ESM 501 System Architecture class.  The subject addresses one of the first stages of system design, analysis and engineering.  Emphasis is placed on engineering systems which include technical, economic and social aspects.  This blog does often discuss subjects related to systems architecture.  See the LIINES Blog Keywords:  Axiomatic Design, Axiomatic Design for Large Flexible Systems, Design Methodologies, Enterprise Control, Graph Theory, Life Cycle Properties, Model-Based Systems Engineering, Socio-Techno-Economic Systems, and SysML.

Additionally, a new page has been added to overview our other taught courses.

Good luck to all as we kick off the Fall Semester.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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LIINES Research Opportunities

As the Fall 2014 academic semester begins, graduate students begin to shop for classes and thesis research topics.  To help guide junior researchers to the research opportunities at the LIINES, we have posted a new research opportunities page.

Good luck to all as we kick off the Fall Semester.

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Congratulations & Welcome to Masdar Institute’s ESM 2014 Incoming Class

As the Fall 2014 academic semester begins, graduate students begin to shop for classes and thesis research topics.

Today, the Engineering Systems and Management Faculty met to present their research topics to the incoming class. If you missed it, get in touch with the ESM Department Head: Prof. Mohammad Omar.

We also presented the LIINES research overview and you can find the powerpoint slides powerpoint slides here. It includes four research themes:

More information on each of these can be found on the LIINES research page.  Additionally, we have written several blog posts on each of these topics.

Good luck to all as we kick off the Fall Semester.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Engineering systems as the continued evolution of engineering to real world problems

In a recent blog post entitled:  “Systems Engineering is just plain old Engineering — not more and certainly not less“, the author questions and discusses systems engineering, engineering systems as part of engineering.

Deeper insight is gained by looking at the definition of engineering itself.  One good definition of engineering is:  “Engineering is the professional art of applying science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to benefit man.”  In the same book, we find: “Engineering is an art requiring the judgement necessary to adapt knowledge to practical purposes, the imagination to conceive original solutions to problems, and the ability to predict performance and cost of new devices or processes.”  (D. W. Oliver, T. P. Kelliher, and J. G. Keegan, Engineering complex systems with models and objects. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997, pp. 25.)

The real question is whether engineering — as it stands today — does indeed meet these definitions.  Any discipline when analyzed traditionally is two things:  a core of methodological activities and a set of typical applications.   So the question becomes whether these methodological activities are sufficient for the applications; the practical problems that when solved would benefit man.

One challenge of modern engineering is its division into multiple disciplines.  Mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical are but a common few.  Each of these comes with their own core of methodologies and typical applications.   Therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult even within engineering itself to apply methodologies from one engineering discipline into another.  It is equally difficult to apply core methodologies in atypical applications.

Coming back to the definition of engineering, some practical problems are simply so big that they require methodological activities from multiple engineering disciplines and in of themselves are the union of multiple typical domains of application.  Here, it is important to recognize the common adage:  “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts“.

And so traditional systems engineering was born shortly after World War II.  Defense applications like jet fighters and satellites clearly draw from mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering.   Astronautical and Aeronautical engineering departments naturally recognize the need for cross-disciplinary activity and have often included the Systems Engineering Handbook within their curricula. Similar trends emerged in nuclear power plants and even highly automated production facilities.

The four research themes at the Laboratory for Intelligent Integrated Networks of Engineering Systems are further examples of this continuing trend.  The energy-water nexus draws heavily from electric power engineering and water resources management.  The electrification of transportation draws heavily from transportation engineering, electric power engineering, and the mechanical engineering of cars and trains.  Smart (power) grids — as cyber-physical systems — recognize that electric power engineering must expand to include new developments from control systems, optimization, signal processing, communications and information technology.  Similarly, reconfigurable manufacturing systems are cyber-physical and integrate similar subjects.

While integrating knowledge from multiple engineering disciplines is helpful, it is insufficient to meet the original definition of engineering as above.  What if the engineering application requires natural resources that are deemed too large by society?  Till today, people ask this of the Big Dig project in Boston.  Another question.  Does the engineering application truly benefit mankind?  We ask this today in the context of nuclear disarmament.  These questions draw heavily from economics, management, political science and ethics.  And they are relatively subjective as compared to the typical methodological activities found in the engineering disciplines.  And yet, it is naive to think that their solution does not require engaged participation of engineers and their disciplines.

These types of questions dominate 21st century problems as compared to those of the 20th century.  In the 20th century, traditional engineering disciplines began from a set of requirements and ended with some product or service as a solution.  These requirements represented the economics, regulations, policies and ethics as an operating box for engineers.   This role, however, is changing.  In the 21st century, engineers no longer take these “requirements” as given but instead have an expanding role of influence. Chief technology officers have increasingly important roles in the innovative success of modern companies.  Government regulators often seek engineers within their ranks.  And many nations are finding engineers within their legislative and executive branches of government.  We’ve moved from a decomposed top-down world to one that is innovative and bottom-up.

It is from this lens that the field of engineering systems finds itself.  It’s still the same engineering definition but the nature of the problem has changed.  This is a good sign.  Engineers are increasingly bringing pervasive solutions to benefit mankind.  As they do, they will increasingly interface with the disciplines devoted to people and society:  the humanities and social sciences.  As that happens, adhering to the definition of engineering will require engineers to converse with these disciplines.  Common definitions and methods are likely to develop as all of these disciplines collectively work to solve mankind’s techno-economic-social problems.

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LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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GAMS Developement @ the LIINES — Practical Implementation Advice on Mac OS X, Linux and Windows

One major disciplinary expertise at the Laboratory for the Intelligent Integrated Networks for Engineering Systems is operations management and research.  Naturally, using optimization techniques in the form of mathematical programming is an essential aspect of this competence.  One really useful software package to allow the straightforward numerical optimization is the General Algebraic Modeling System (GAMS) and it has been used extensively in the smart power grid application domain.  Many researchers in the field also link Matlab to GAMS using the former for data processing and results visualization and the latter as a solver.

The implementations at the LIINES, however, have some challenging implementation demands.  For example, model predictive control problems require the solution of a numerical optimization at every discrete time step simulation evolution.  When Matlab calls GAMS — on the Windows platform — it spawns a new graphical user interface integrated development environment (GUI-IDE) window (and all associated dynamic link libraries).  This slows down simulation tremendously.  Even worse, the Windows OS may not be able to reliably handle these repeated calls leading to a crash of the simulation.  Trust us, when you are many hours into a fully automatic simulation, that’s hardly what you are looking for.

Fortunately, the GAMS version of Linux and Mac OS X does not have a GUI-IDE and runs purely from the command line.  We have found this to be not just faster for simulation but also much more stable when tied to MATLAB.  We highly suggest this approach.

Now some will say, that they need the GAMS GUI-IDE for development.  We agree that this can be useful!  Fortunately, you can have the best of both worlds.  Use the command line native Linux/Mac OS X version for reliable simulation.  In the meantime, a Windows version installed over WINE can be used purely for development.  The GAMS support page provides very clear installation instructions here.

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Prof. Amro M. Farid presents Reconfigurable Manufacturing System Research at IEEE Systems, Man and Cybernetics Conference in Manchester, UK

A Reconfigurable manufacturing system is a system that is designed at the outset for rapid change in structure, as well as in hardware and software components, in order to quickly adjust production capacity and functionality within a part family in response to sudden changes in market or regulatory requirements.  The challenge in the design of such systems is how to enable such reconfigurations and why.   One piece in the design puzzle is production path enumeration.  On Wednesday October 16th, Prof. Amro M. Farid presented his latest work on Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems at the IEEE Systems Man and Cybernetics Conference, Manchester UK.  This paper entitled:  “An Axiomatic Design Approach to Non-Assembled Production Path Enumeration in Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems”  combines Axiomatic Design for Large Flexible Systems with graph theory to present novel approaches to the design of reconfigurable manufacturing systems.

Full text of the paper and previous work may be found through the LIINES Website  publications page under paper code [RMS-C08].

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Prof. Amro M. Farid participates in MIT Workshop on Modeling Social, Technical and Natural Systems for Policy

On September 25-27, Prof. Amro M. Farid participated in an invited workshop entitled:  “Modeling Social, Technical and Natural Systems for Policy” as organized by the MIT Engineering Systems Division.  This goal of this workshop was to catalyze a larger community of research and practice interested in technology, policy and related issues.  There is a need for researchers, academics and practitioners in technology, science and policy to increasingly develop common methods in education, research and practice.

 

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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