Designing a Learning Historian for Manufacturing Processes
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In all aspects of life, reviewing history has proven to have some influence on future decisions. Review of past events is not new to our society. Basketball coaches often review videotapes of games to see what worked well and what could be improved upon (Plaisant et. al page 1). Black boxes in airplanes also provide a record of the conversation held by the pilot and co-pilot prior to a plane crash (Plaisant et. al page 1.) Allowing users to have some record of their actions gives them the opportunity to review these actions and perhaps decide what to do next.
Providing a way to review history may also prove beneficial in the manufacturing environment. Simulations provide a means of modeling a "system to reproduce the dynamic behavior of the system" (Herrmann page 11).
While simulations are excellent tools for creating these models, they may lack in helping the user to understand the relationships that exist in manufacturing processes. For example, they may lack in facilitating learning that would help the user to understand the relationship that exist between such measures such as the capacity (the number of machines), rate (part/time), through-put (number of completed parts), net profit and cycle time (average time per part).
Understanding the relationship held between these measures is the key to understanding the model itself.
The Institute for Systems Research at the University of Maryland in a joint effort with the Human Computer Interface Lab (HCIL) at the University of Maryland endeavored to provide a solution to helping the user understand these relationships. Their objective was to help students understand the relationship held between the following performance measures: capacity, throughput and cycle time. Once this relationship is understood, the student could use this knowledge to optimize system design. It is believed that providing a link between the student and the simulation that would facilitate learning and understanding would accomplish this objective.
The Learning Historian had the capabilities of providing such a tool. The following course of action was followed in designing a Learning Historian for a manufacturing process:
ﵠDevelop a simple simulation of a manufacturing process using Arena
ﵠUse a Learning Historian that is able to read the Arena file
ﵠSelect the input and output configuration files to be displayed in the Historian
ﵠDevelop a study that would test the usability of the Historian as a user interface
ﵠTest the usability of the Historian on users by means of an informal study
ﵠObserve and record users comments and suggestions
ﵠImplement minor changes to Historian based on frequency of suggestion or comment
ﵠAfter initial testing of historian is complete collate all studies and look for trends in suggestions, comments and problems encountered by users