M.S. Thesis Presentation by Brian Wilgenbusch
Friday, July 6, 2001

(Dr. Bert Bras, advisor)

"Developing an Information Management System for an Environmental and Economic Monitoring System"


Public opinion, legislation, and an increasing pressure to become ISO 14000 compliant force manufacturers to take environmental considerations into their decision-making process. In order to make environmentally conscious design and manufacturing decisions, companies must be able to a) assess, quantitatively, their full environmental load, b) relate their load to specific design and operations decisions, c) evaluate the economic impact of making different decisions, and d) do all this in a timely fashion. Similar to using the dashboard in your car to help drive, several departments at Georgia Tech are collaborating to create a "dashboard" that allows plant managers to quickly determine the current and historical economic and environmental performance of all manufacturing operations, in addition to allocating mass and energy flows to each product to support better design decisions. This is accomplish by utilizing an extended version of the Activity-Based Costing (ABC) modeling approach, including energy and waste assessments in addition to cost, to organize information from sensors, cost sheets, utility bills, and various plant sources.

The specific research goal within this project is to develop the information management system that will support the dashboard. The purpose of this system is to organize all information from various sources, such as sensors, forms, and other databases, using the ABC approach. A maintenance program will be developed to easily modify the model as it changes over time. The database will also provide data to the web interface, where line workers, engineers, and managers all can view the dashboard. In addition, the web interface will provide information for life-cycle software analysis programs, which determine the environmental impact of products. One challenge in this research is to create the entire system, including all forms, web pages, supporting queries, and even the database structure itself, in a general fashion. This will enable the dashboard to be used by many different companies without modifications.

Production facilities of two participating companies, Interface Inc. and Georgia Duck, will be modeled to prove that the system can accurately model a variety of facilities. From this research, these companies will receive insight concerning their manufacturing processes, including energy consumption and value of waste streams, as well as the true cost for their products in terms of cost and environmental impact. Future work will build upon this research to accomplish other research goals, such as expanding the system to be used as a predictive product and process design tool, connect several facilities within a company, and incorporating sensitivity analysis.