In today’s highly competitive economy, a company’s ability to continue producing and delivering goods is not only imperative, but in many cases, is a matter of survival.

Dr. Feng Yang, an assistant professor of industrial and management systems engineering at West Virginia University, has been studying this phenomenon for a few years. Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Yang and her team of WVU students will begin conducting in-depth research, which they hope will expose a new, innovative solution.

“Modern manufacturing enterprises experience disruptions on many levels: unexpected customer demand, supplier failures, a bomb explodes and natural disasters,” explained Yang. “Currently, many companies simply leave the task of coping with these various disruptions to security and insurance professionals. However, building a resilient enterprise should be a strategic initiative that companies seek to increase their competitiveness.”

This resilience is the point of Yang’s research, which intends to develop a responsive production planning method. This system will allow for optimum re-planning of production activities within minutes, while the system is still fully capable of recognizing the current situation and product constraints.
“An industry of particular interest to this work is semiconductor manufacturing, which is among the most complicated and capital-intensive manufacturing processes in the world,” Yang said.

Semiconductor materials are the foundation of modern electronics, such as radios, computers and telephones.

“Compared to other industries, semiconductor manufacturing is under particularly high pressure from rapidly changing market needs, short product life cycle and increasing global competition,” said Yang. “So in this area, more so than others, the ability to respond and recover from a disruptive event is critical.”

But this research will not be limited to only the manufacturing sector; it can also be applied to service sectors, such as health care, communication and transportation. Yang is currently working with Dr. Peter Perrotta, the director of the clinical laboratory at WVU’s Health Science Center, to improve the efficiency of their labs.

A doctoral student, Minqi Li, and two undergraduate students, Brittney Benchoff and Mathew Perrotta, all students in the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, will be participating in the research.

“During the next three years, we will develop simulation-based statistical methods and apply those methods to address real-time decision making problems for both manufacturing and service applications,” Yang said.

Yang has extensive experience in statistical modeling, design of experiments and stochastic simulation of manufacturing and service systems. This is the second NSF grant Yang has earned as a principle investigator in 2011.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, CEMR