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Identification of trade-offs for sustainable manufacturing of a Bamboo Bike by System Dynamics
(2013)

We develop a generic System Dynamic model to simulate the production, machines, employees, waste, and capital flows of a manufacturing company. In a second step, this model is specialised by defining suit-able input data to represent a bicycle manufacturing company in a developing country. We monitor a set of sustainability indicators to understand the social, environmental and economic impact of the company, and to estimate managerial decisions to be taken in order to improve on these criteria. We show that the social and environmental situation can be improved over time without sacrificing the economic success of the company's business.

We study System Dynamics models with several free parameters that can be altered by the user. We assume that the user's goal is to achieve a certain dynamic behavior of the model by varying these parameters. In order to the find best possible combination of parameter settings, several automatic parameter tuning methods are described in the literature and readily available within existing System Dynamic software packages. We give a survey on the available techniques in the market and describe their theoretical background. Some of these methods are already six decades old, and meanwhile newer and more powerful optimization methods have emerged in the mathematical literature. One major obstacle for their direct use are tabled data in System Dynamics models, which are usually interpreted as piecewise linear functions. However, modern optimization methods usually require smooth functions which are twice continuously differentiable. We overcome this problem by a smooth spline interpolation of the tabled data. We use a test set of three complex System Dynamic models from the literature, describe their individual transition into optimization problems, and demonstrate the applicability of modern optimization algorithms to these System Dynamics Optimization problems.

The Scenario Technique is a strategic planning method that aims to describe and analyze potential developments of a considered system in the future. Its application consists of several steps, from an initial problem analysis over an influence analysis to projections of key factors and a definition of the scenarios to a final interpretation of the results. The technique itself combines qualitative and quantitative methods and is an enhancement of the standard Scenario Technique. We use the numerical values gathered during the influence analysis, and embed them in a System Dynamics framework. This yields a mathematically rigorous way to achieve predictions of the system‘s future behavior from an initial impulse and the feedback structure of the factors. The outcome of our new method is a further way of projecting the present into the future, which enables the user of the Scenario Technique to obtain a validation of the results achieved by the standard method.

Identification of trade-offs for sustainable manufacturing of a Bamboo Bike by System Dynamics
(2013)

We consider a production planning problem where two competing companies are selling their items on a common market. Moreover, the raw material used in the production is a limited non-renewable resource. The revenue per item sold depends on the total amount of items produced by both players. If they collaborate they could apply a production strategy that leads to the highest combined revenue. Usually the formation of such syndicates is prohibited by law; hence we assume that one company does not know how much the other company will produce. We formulate the problem for company A to find an optimal production plan without information on the strategy of company B as a nonlinear mathematical optimization problem. In its naive formulation the model is too large, making its solution practically impossible. After a reformulation we find a much smaller model, which we solve by spatial branch-and-cut methods and linear programming. We discuss the practical implications of our solutions.

The System Dynamics (SD) methodology is a framework for modeling and simulating the dynamic behavior of socioeconomic systems. Characteristic for the description of such systems is the occurrence of feedback loops together with stocks and flows. The mathematical equations that describe the system are usually nonlinear. Therefore seemingly simple systems can show a nonintuitive, nonpredictable behavior over time. Controlling a dynamical system means to define a desired final state in which the system should be, and to specify potential interventions from outside that should keep the system on the right track. The central question is how to compute such globally optimal control for a given SD model. We propose a branch-and-bound approach that is based on a bound propagation method, primal heuristics, and spatial branching. We apply our new SD-control method to a small System Dynamics model, that describes the evolution of a social-economic system over time. We examine the problem of steering this system on a sustainable consumption path.

System Dynamic models describe physical, technical, economical, or social systems using differential and algebraic equations. In their purest form, these models are intended to describe the evolution of a system from a given initial state. In many applications, it is possible to intervene with the system in order to obtain a desired dynamic or a certain outcome in the end. On the mathematical side, this leads to control problems, where aside from the simulation one has to find optimal intervention functions over time that maximize a specific objective function. Using a dynamical model for the utilization of a natural nonrenewable resource of Behrens as a demonstrator example, we present two main mathematical solution strategies. They are distinguished by the quality certificate on their respective solution: one leads to proven local optimal solution, and the other technique yields proven global optimal solutions. We present implementational and numerical issues, and a comparison of both methods.