An Operations Cyberinfrastructure: Using Cyberinfrastructure and Operations Research to Improve Productivity in the Enterprise

Figure 1: Combining top-down and bottom-up approaches at multiple levels and scales

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Figure 1: Combining top-down and bottom-up approaches at multiple levels and scales.

he OCI will take advantage of new Web services standards to allow data and algorithms to be combined more readily, encouraging design research and the use of design tools in a broader variety of enterprises. Specifically, the OCI will foster better storage and organization of the data repositories essential to product design, by linking a wide range of distributed databases and defining standards for accessing them. At the same time, it will provide access to more powerful algorithmic tools for data searching and mining, as well as to the advanced computational platforms that are conventionally associated with CI. The result will be to facilitate more complex design procedures, particularly for situations in which uncertainty of data or requirements must be accommodated. Examples include designing for flexibility to allow objects to adapt to their environment, and exploration of larger scenario spaces, possibly using paradigms and algorithms from stochastic optimization. In summary, CI features will provide much more widespread access to tools for solving complex design tasks.

OCI-related research in product design can help with issues related to product differentiation, product proliferation, and product standardization. How can we utilize OR models for postponement analysis to exploit standardization and common features of the design, yet facilitate product differentiation and customization? Research in OR theory and practice is required to answer this question. In particular, strategic research should be conducted on multi-tiered, multi-level, multi-objective, and network-centric design capabilities. Risk-utility trade-offs for analyzing payoffs in various decision-making environments under highly dynamic product design scenarios is another potential focus area. The CI aspects of this research may involve the Web’s ability to offer complex semantic capabilities to facilitate communication of data between OR tools and the applications they serve.

The OCI will be instrumental in dealing with system integration issues arising in physical, logical, and virtual system layers. In addition, it opens the door for multi-disciplinary exploration in the study of design, bringing together tools from computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, and management science. OCI research should also explore the implications of emerging technologies in nano- and biosciences for innovation in product structures, issues of scale, and complexity management in product design.

With increasing focus of design and development on mass customization and customer-oriented products and services, traditional system design boundaries are blurring and even vanishing. The OCI offers opportunities to explore web-based technologies in such areas as product customization. In particular, it can shed new light on constraint satisfaction problems, which arise in distributed, decentralized, and autonomous environments, especially when complex product-process-resource platforms are present. Further development of the constraint-satisfaction approach may lead to enterprise applications that can integrate a wider range of collaboration efforts, from design to prototyping and manufacturing.

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