SUNConferences, Computers and Industrial Engineering 42

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System Dynamics : The neglected IE tool
Paul Kruger

Last modified: 2012-06-18


The System Dynamics approach to modelling (originally known as Industrial Dynamics) was developed in the late 1950’s by Professor Jay W Forrester of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Since then it has developed into an acknowledged, well formulated and structured methodology for modelling, investigating and understanding the dynamic characteristics and sub-system interactions of complex systems. Initially it was applied predominately to strategic business situations but its application has expanded into other fields of interest such as the analysis of environmental and social problems, industrial engineering and even primary school education. The main purpose of this tutorial is an attempt to provide some introductory information about the approach and its potential applications to Industrial Engineering. It may be especially useful for those individuals who have always wanted to know more about Systems Dynamics but may have been afraid to ask!

The tutorial will be divided into two parts. Part I will provide an introduction to some of the basic concepts, modelling constructs and philosophy of Systems Dynamics such as Levels, Rates, Material/Information Flow, Delays, Goal Seeking, Oscillating Behaviour, Closed Loop and Systems Thinking. Relative simple illustrative examples will be used to demonstrate the concepts and approach. These may include Compound Interest, a Water Tank, Lion/Impala Predator Prey Models, Nuclear Fission, Shower Temperature Control, New Product Introduction and an Inventory Control System.

The second part of the tutorial will provide and discuss somewhat more realistic examples of System Dynamic modelling. These may include designing a Surge Tank in a Chocolate Factory, a Coal Mine Materials Handling System, a Beer Distribution System and the Management of a Finishing School for Boys.

This is not a high class research symposium. It is a tutorial trying to disseminate some practical knowledge that may be useful to the practising Industrial Engineer. It will be presented in a relaxed and somewhat light-hearted, but certainly not a frivolous manner.

A man may seye full sooth (truth) in game and pley

Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, c. 1387.

Jesters do oft prove prophets

William Shakespeare, King Lear, 1605.