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Research Themes
Planning & Scheduling of Processes and Supply Chains
In every processing industry, such as chemical plants, steel refineries, oil refineries, food production, and pulp & paper, planning and scheduling is of vital importance to the everyday workings of the company. Whether it is long term campaign planning, short term scheduling of individual unit operations on the factory floor, or management of purchases and transportation of goods along the supply chain, the quality of the planning and scheduling can have significant impacts on the bottom line profitability of the company.

In this research, the MACC is developing better algorithms, frameworks, and methods for many aspects of the planning & scheduling hierarchy, ranging from short term to long term. These include the development of strategies such as inventory pinch point models, supply chain optimization algorithms, continuous and discrete time models, Bayesian network models, models which consider uncertainty, and multi-scale models. These are applied to processes such as steel making, gasoline blending, and food processing.

A supply chain (SC) is a network of facilities that performs the functions of raw material procurement, raw material transformation into intermediate and finished products, and distribution of products to customers. In a chemical process supply chain, such as in the petrochemical or pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing is a major component. Supply chain management (SCM) and supply chain optimization (SCO) are concerned with the coordinated optimization of business processes, including strategic network design, purchasing, production, transportation and distribution in order to bring greater net value to the customer, at minimum overall cost. Supply chain performance, as determined by metrics such as operational cost, product lead-time, and flexibility, is dependent on both the supply chain design and operating strategy. In our research, we consider both dimensions. We are developing robust model predictive control (MPC) strategies for SCM that incorporate demand and process... [read more]

Dr. Chris L. E. Swartz
Professor and Director, MACC
Dr. Thomas E. Marlin
Professor Emeritus


Scheduling of batch and semi-continuous processes is tied intimately with the efficiency of operations, utilization of storage, demand satisfaction, and operations uptime. Process scheduling is complicated by interdependencies of equipment networks, complex product recipes, storage limitations, product due dates (material deliveries) and limited utilities. Planning is typically executed over a longer time horizon, and provides production targets to the scheduling layer. The economic benefits of efficient scheduling and planning, and scale and complexity of optimizing and coordinating these tasks, has resulted in considerable and ongoing research activity in these areas. Our research in this field is driven primarily by industrial needs, and our studies typically involve close collaboration with industrial partners. Recent studies include optimal raw material purchasing and plant operation under uncertainty in steel manufacturing, and the development of optimal scheduling and... [read more]

Dr. Chris L. E. Swartz
Professor and Director, MACC
Pedro Castillo
Ph.D. Candidate
Mahir Jalanko
MaSC Candidate
Kevin Meyer
MaSC Candidate
Shailesh Patel
Ph.D. Candidate
Alex Tikk
MaSC Candidate
Philip Tominac
Ph.D. Candidate