How do industrial networks and supply chains deal with major disruptions to day-to-day processes? This was the question posed by Behzad Behdani. He has been working for two years under the supervision of Zofia Lukszo to find practical and theoretical answers. Various large multinationals are interested in the results.
An industrial network is not an infrastructure in the same way that cables and pipelines are. An industrial network consists of companies that have connections with each other, for example as suppliers or customers. A supply chain is an industrial network that includes the whole chain, from raw-material supplier to end-customer. What happens when the chain of links is disrupted?
The answer to this question is interesting because major disruptions make things more visible, for example the autonomy, hierarchy of relationships and allocation of tasks and responsibilities in a network. A disruption to a subsystem has consequences for the whole network. From those consequences we can also work out how to manage the subsystems in normal circumstances so that the network performs to its full potential.
Achieving optimum performance in a system is no simple matter. Paradoxically, optimising subsystems does not result in the optimum performance of the system as a whole. Greater insight is needed into the unique properties of networks. Behdani and Lukszo are working on a method for modelling these properties more effectively.
The high level of interest in this theme was already apparent from previous joint projects undertaken with the University of Singapore. The knowledge is of great value to multinationals, because they are networks in themselves. Smaller organisations can be seen as networks of departments. The ‘network’ concept is universally applicable, which makes this research even more important.
The research began in April 2008 and the first results have now been published.