PhD Thesis Defense - Timothy Sprock

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TITLE:  A Metamodel of Operational Control for Discrete Event Logistics Systems


Discrete event logistics systems (DELS) are a class of dynamic systems that are defined by the transformation of discrete flows through a network of interconnected subsystems. The DELS domain includes systems such as supply chains, manufacturing systems, transportation networks, warehouses, and health care delivery systems.

In the future, smart operational control mechanisms must not only integrate real-time data from system operations, but also formulate and solve a wide variety of optimal-control analyses quickly and efficiently and then translate the results into executable commands.

However in contemporary DELS practice, these optimal-control analyses, and analyses in general, are often purpose-built to answer specific questions, with an implicit system model and many possible analysis implementations depending on the question, the instance data, and the solver. Automated and cost-effective access to multiple analyses from a single conceptual model of the target system would broaden the usage and implementation of analysis-based decision support and system optimization.

The fundamental contribution of this dissertation is concerned with interoperability and bridging the gap between operations research analysis models and practical applications of the results. This dissertation closes this gap by constructing a standard domain-specific language, standard problem definitions, and a standard analysis methodology to answer the control questions and execute the prescribed control actions.

The domain specific language meets a broader requirement for facilitating interoperability for DELS, including system integration, plug-and-play analysis methods and tools, and system design methodologies. The domain-specific language formalizes a recurring product, process, resource, and facility description of the DELS domain. It provides a common language to discuss our systems, including the questions that we want to ask about our systems, the problems that we need to solve in order to answer those questions, and the mechanisms to deploy the solution.

A canonical set of control questions defines the comprehensive functional specification of all the decision-making mechanisms that a controller needs to be able to provide; i.e. a model of analysis models or a metamodel of operational control. These questions refine the interoperability mechanism between system and analysis models by mapping classes of control analysis models to implementation and execution mechanisms in the system model.

A standard representation of each class of control problems is only a partial solution to fully addressing operational control. The final contribution of this dissertation constructs a round-trip analysis methodology that completes the bridge between operations research analysis models and deployable control mechanisms. This contribution formalizes an analysis pathway, from formulating an analysis model to executing a control action, that is grounded in a more fundamental insight into how analysis methods are executed to support operational control decision-making.


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    Anita Race
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    Fletcher Moore
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