Systems Engineering

A Survey of IFPRI Systems Engineering

Paul Mort, Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, OH


The Systems Engineering area is a new addition to the IFPRI program structure, starting in 2015.  It provides a means to integrate modeling and operational control frameworks over processes that may include elements from the other focus areas.

While the need for and application of systems engineering may vary by product and/or industry, it is typically driven by a combination of objectives including product quality and manufacturing efficiency.  Specifications for particulate products may include ranges for multiple distributed characteristics, for example particle size, shape, composition, porosity or other structural attribute.  A systems approach can be used to achieve quality objectives for distributed characteristics based on integrated monitoring and control. 

Industrial systems typically include primary unit operations having control objectives (e.g., crystallization, granulation, milling) along with ancillary processes (separation, classification, recycling) that can be used to further refine output quality.  Typical system models use flow-sheets to integrate unit operations with flow streams having distributed characteristics.  This requires a practical combination of (1) unit-op models having distributed input and output streams in sufficient detail to predict product quality objectives; and (2) sufficient measurement data to compare against the models’ predicted stream distributions. On one hand, detailed models (e.g., multi-dimensional PBM’s) may be challenging to implement because they require more detailed data for comparison purposes; on the other hand, grossly simplified models may not be able to adequately predict distributed characteristics relevant to product quality specifications.

An initial goal of projects in the Systems Engineering area is a demonstration project to probe the state-of-the-art of systems-level modeling combined with experimental demonstration and validation methodologies [Zoltan Nagy, Purdue University, “A Holistic Approach for the Model-based Control of Crystal Size, Shape and Purity in Integrated Batch and Continuous Crystallization-Wet Milling Systems,” currently in progress.] 

More broadly, we are planning to set a foundation for a workshop to create a joint academic-industrial perspective on and gap analysis of what is both practical and achievable over a range of industrial R&D and manufacturing operations using a process systems approach [Stefan Heinrich, TUHH, “Toward Systems Engineering Workshop – A Gap Analysis of Systems Modeling, Sensor Capability and Integration thereof,” anticipated 2018.]