Final Report of IMS Test Case 7

GNOSIS: Knowledge Systematization: Configuration Systems for Design and Manufacturing


At the time of completion of this final report on the GNOSIS test case in March 1994, the preparation of a long-term GNOSIS project proposal is still an ongoing activity. At the inter-regional meeting in Grenoble at the beginning of February 1994, the terms of reference for a long-term project were established, and the task of developing a detailed project plan was partitioned across virtually all partners. Two drafts of a long-term proposal have been circulated for comment to date, and a third draft is currently in preparation. This section is based on extracts from the second draft plan of February 21, 1994. It should be noted that it is expected that the plan will undergo major revisions before submission to a long-term IMS program. However, one deliverable from the test case was to be a draft long-term plan, and what has been produced to date is a useful indicator of the current objectives of partners in the GNOSIS test case in the light of their experience.

7.1 Mission Statement

The long-term mission statement corresponds closely to that of the test case.
To establish a new manufacturing paradigm through the utilization of knowledge-intensive strategies covering all stages of product life cycle, with the aim of realizing new types of highly competitive manufactured products and processes which are environment-conscious, society-conscious and human-oriented.
The manufacturing sector with its associated technological development has historically been the key to wealth generation and human prosperity. However, in recent years, the manufacturing world has reached an impasse, with its heretofore clearly accepted value to society being brought into question due to the undesirable effects it produces -- environmental problems such as natural resource depletion and excess waste generation, and international trade friction, evidenced by the emergence of trade blocks and the necessity for complex trade agreements. Reactive and uncoordinated remedies are being applied to these problems achieving only short term, partial success. Without a consorted, radical initiative, the manufacturing sector will be faced with either self-imposed or externally- imposed restrictions in the coming years. The work proposed here is a first but significant step in this initiative.

The ultimate goal of GNOSIS is to establish a new manufacturing paradigm which will overcome or minimize the problems inherent in the existing mass production paradigm. Thus a post-mass production paradigm is proposed, which involves a new approach to manufacturing, recognizing resource limitations and the balance of nature in order to achieve a sustainable manufacturing environment. This paradigm will be realized by the manufacture of soft products, with associated soft production systems and soft industrial enterprises. Softness here refers to adaptability, robustness, and growth potential together with congeniality to the natural environment and human society. The lack of such softness in conventional manufactured products is due largely to the uncoordinated use of knowledge, resulting in conceptual blind-spots -- local optimization but global inconsistencies. Hence, the effective use of knowledge is regarded as the key to the establishment of the new paradigm.

The principal themes of the research were selected to enable this strategy to be implemented at various levels, in order to achieve results in the short to medium as well as the long term. Research into the post-mass production paradigm goal will include conceptual themes such as social needs, manufacturing philosophy, and economy, in addition to considering the driving forces towards it and obstacles to it. Research into new competitive soft products and production systems which will form the backbone of the future manufacturing paradigm, will be supported by knowledge systematization and a knowledge intensive engineering framework, with modeling and integration themes focusing on generic representation and communication issues.

In summary, this research proposes a shift from mass material use in production to mass knowledge application, from quantitative to qualitative satisfaction, and the widening of the scope of manufacturing to include the whole product life cycle. The consortium approach towards realizing that goal is to have:

The number and content of the sub-projects will evolve over the project duration, as old goals are reached or proven irrelevant and as new goals emerge. This is especially true with regard to the shorter term subprojects.

7.2 Connections to Other Proposals Inside and Outside of IMS

A major section of the long-term project proposal is devoted to a review of other research programs relevant to GNOSIS. The sections include those on:-

7.3 Technical Structure of the Project

This section makes a preliminary identification of the proposed long-term technical work packages and describes their relationship to the GNOSIS mission and its rationale. It also outlines work package dependencies, information flows between them, and the overall project strategy. The long-term GNOSIS project is organized around the following seven Technical Work Packages: "Soft" in the GNOSIS sense means adaptive, flexible, reconfigurable, responsive. The GNOSIS mission can then be concisely described as "the creation of soft products, machines, and manufacturing systems which are environmentally friendly and responsive to human and societal needs". Such adaptive entities can only be created through using and incorporating intelligent system (knowledge system) concepts.

In Work Package 1, the overall characteristics and impact on society of the new era in manufacturing are reviewed and examined under the heading of the post mass production paradigm. In GNOSIS terminology, this is the soft manufacturing paradigm. Soft artifacts encompasses both soft products" for the consumer and the soft machines which make these. The design and construction of these soft artifacts is the focus of Work Package 2. The reconfigurable distributed soft manufacturing systems which will produce both soft artifacts and conventional (hard) products is the concern of Work Package 3. Adaptive (soft) entities can be autonomous and have capabilities for self-configuration, self-organization, self-control, self-repair. Work Package 4 has such softness capabilities as its focus. Work Packages 5 and 6 are concerned with the enabling technologies of modeling and integration needed for implementing soft artifacts and soft manufacturing systems. The foundation of knowledge system technology which makes possible the creation of soft entities is the area of Work Package 7.

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