Research Coordination Focus and SMART CN Team Composition

Sustainable manufacturing is commonly understood as to ensure that all the manufactured products are sustainable, and all the manufacturing processes are sustainable in design and operation.  It is our view that sustainable manufacturing should also consider sustainability issues beyond the usual boundary of the manufacturing systems, i.e., the environment, the community, and even the ecosystem.  Obviously, sustainable manufacturing is a complex system problem involving activities ranging from microscale, through mesoscale, to macroscale.  This understanding helps define the scope of research coordination and networking.

The team has conducted extensive review of various manufacturing roadmaps. A conceptual vision for the chemical and allied industries is well reflected in Vision2020.  Table 1 lists six focused technology areas identified by the Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative, which was created in 2009.  If the technologies in these categories can be fully developed and implemented, then the economic and environmental benefits to the national economy should be extremely significant, including a 77% reduction in fossil fuel use, a change in energy and feedstocks supply to 33% renewable resources, a 53% reduction in GHG emissions, savings sufficient to create 500,000 new jobs.

Recently, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) developed a roadmap for general manufacturing.  Smart manufacturing, an emerging paradigm that draws on significantly improved information and communications within and across manufacturing operations, represents a sea change in manufacturing operations: the integration of measurement and actuation, safety and environmental protection, regulatory control, real-time optimization, and planning and scheduling into a strong predictive and preventive mode of operation, with a much swifter reactive and rapid-incident-response capacity.  The SMLC report analyzed barriers and benefits of four action areas and prioritized sub-action areas (see Table 2).  It also identified technology targets for the following decade.

A comprehensive study on the major advanced manufacturing roadmaps by the team shows that industrial technology innovation can be greatly expedited by adopting/applying the new theories, methodologies, and tools developed by the academic researchers in systems engineering and engineering sustainability.  In the past decade, research on process design, material and product design, enterprise-wide or industrial zone-based design and management optimization, supply chain design, system integration, etc., where economic, environmental, and social sustainability issues are addressed at different levels, have been greatly advanced.  However, there is a serious lack of coordinated, multidisciplinary effort within the academic community and effective networking approach with industrial practitioners.  This is the main motivation for the team to collaborate together, with the central theme on sustainable manufacturing research advancement.

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Sustainability Integrated Research Coordination

The steering committee includes 16 established researchers in chemical, environmental, civil engineering, mechanical, material, and biological engineering, sociology, economics and business from 13 domestic universities.  Table 3 summarizes the research expertise of the US based committee members.  Short bios of each memeber are available on the people page.

This team will collaborate with eight foreign researchers from seven countries.  They are: (1) Prof. Bhavik Bakshi, Department of Energy and Environmental Engineering, TERI U., India.  Bakshi is a leading scholar in sustainability science and industrial ecology; (2) Prof. Rafiqul Gani, Director, Center for Comp. Aided Process Engineering, Technical U. of Denmark.  Gani is a world-renowned scholar in sustainable chemical engineering; (3) Prof. Edgar Hertwich, Director, Industrial Ecology Program, Norwegian U. of Sci. and Tech.  Hertwich is an expert in climate mitigation, LCA, trade and environment risk analysis; (4) Prof. Shanyin Hu, Director, Center for Industrial Ecology, Tsinghua U., China.  A renowned scholar in China, Hu has accomplished numerous government and industry-funded projects for industrial ecological park development, (5) Prof. Qun Jin, Department of Human Informatics and Cognitive Sciences, Waseda U., Japan.  Jin’s research is mainly in the areas of networked information systems, collaborative Internet computing, human and social informatics, and cognitive science; (6) Prof. Iftekhar Karimi,   Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore.  Karimi is a leading researcher in carbon capture, energy integration, fuel gas network synthesis; (7) Prof. Yu Qian, Director, Guangdong Provincial Lab. for Green Chemical Product Manufacturing, South China U. of Tech. Qian’s expertise is in the area of co-firing coal, biomass and natural gas for power generation and chemical production, and (8) Prof. G. Wozny, Chair of Process Dynamics and Operation, Berlin U. of Technology, Germany.  Wozny is a leading European researcher in process system dynamics and operation, thermodynamic analysis, sustainable biomass manufacturing.  Table 4 shows their expertise most relevant to the project.

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Tool Development Coordination

The manufacturing industry is pushing to minimize its raw material and energy usage along with pollutant/emission generation without compromising the economic value of the enterprise. To meet this end, new insights into the characteristics of truly sustainable systems are needed in concert with fundamental rethinking of how plants are designed, constructed and operated.  Computer-based tools that can assist designers in performing systematic and rigorous generation of alternatives, evaluation, selection and optimization are highly desirable as such tools enable identification of the best solution at reduced time, money and effort. Computer-aided tools and algorithms have been successfully employed throughout the chemical and allied industries for more than 40 years to accelerate development and optimize the design and operation of increasingly integrated processes.  With more than 300 software applications available (both commercial and academic prototypes), the integral role that such tools will play in sustainability research cannot be underestimated.

Among others, Cabezas et al. as well as Chen and Shonnard have successfully integrated process simulation tools (e.g. Aspen Plus, Pro/II, etc.) with environmental impact assessment tools to compare different design alternatives in a systematic manner. Other efforts have focused on the application of mathematical optimization tools to identify the both the discrete decision variables and the operating conditions to simultaneously maximize profitability and the minimize the environmental impact.  The introduction of process integration tools like pinch analysis provided systematic methodologies for analyzing and optimizing the generation, usage and routing of mass and energy throughout a process through the implementation of heat- and mass-exchange networks.  A heuristic based expert system for minimization of waste generation and energy usage (P2TCP) was developed by Pennington using artificial intelligence techniques. Halim and Srinivasan proposed a combined knowledge-based and optimization framework (ENVOPExpert) for sustainable design and operation. Carvalho et al. introduced a different approach, where an indicator-based method for generation and evaluation of sustainable design alternatives was implemented in the software tool SustainPro.

Each of these tools has proven their usefulness. However, their application range is limited to various specific aspects of the sustainability problem like minimization of waste generation, optimization of process variables, and generation of design alternatives. A truly comprehensive sustainability solution requires interfacing/linking the various tools, which has proven to be challenging as each tool approaches the problem from different directions.  Recently, Halim et al. introduced a methodology that interfaces two sustainability tools, i.e. ENVOPExpert and SustainPro. This integration could lead to more accurate identification of any potential root cause of sustainability problems by combining identification and evaluation of bottlenecks through metric analysis with qualitative analysis and heuristic solutions through optimization.  It should also be noted that in this work, a combination of metrics is employed, i.e., the sustainability metrics from the IChemE are combined with the environmental impact measures from the Waste Reduction (WAR) algorithm.

Much more work is needed to provide a comprehensive solution framework that utilizes the best aspects of the various tools.  The researchers involved in this SMART CN project are all active contributors to many of the above mentioned tools, and thus the tool coordination and specification through a software working group will be a significant outcome of this project.

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Using the RCN to Build the Sustainable Manufacturing Roadmap

In this project, we will bring together the manufacturing community to develop a comprehensive “roadmap” – a coordinated research and development agenda – for sustainable manufacturing.  In the process of developing consensus for a national agenda that will give direction to research and development investment by industries, academia, and government, building this roadmap will require the establishment of a Research Coordinating Network (RCN) and a long-term work plan. The operational aspects of building and supporting the appropriate industry-academic-government involvement and the build-out of the roadmap will be orchestrated by our steering committee representing an unusually strong set of academic leaders in process-product systems engineering and sustainability.

The smart manufacturing example for building consensus and developing a roadmap.  There is general agreement that a sustainable manufacturing agenda can be developed as an analog of the roadmap using processes similar to those developed by the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC).  In its NSF-supported virtual organization, SMLC members established workshop processes that have proven successful for community convergence on a roadmap and for building broad community involvement.  Working with industry-academia consortia ASM (Abnormal Situation Management) and CACHE Corporation (Computer Aids in Chemical Engineering), SMLC defined intersections that benefit both company and university research agendas while realizing broader industry-academia benefits and providing industry and academia involved in the chemical manufacturing enterprise with an opportunity to build on an already close working relationship.  Because a national agenda requires an ongoing center of engaged industry and academic involvement, SMLC, ASM and CACHE were insufficient individually, but by coming together as part of a larger group, they were able to form a critical mass that was able to build momentum toward a community network.

With SMLC as a partner and following the same model, the roadmap will be constructed by first defining the functional specifications and major components for sustainable manufacturing, then working backwards and identifying the gaps between that end definition and the current state.  The roadmap, then, will chart a course and establish research and development priorities for getting from the current state to the defined end point for sustainable manufacturing.  Moreover, this process will lead to long-term value through increasing value and investment by industry and government in the development of the roadmap, resource pooling that facilitates specific projects by individual and collaborating companies and academics, and the government shaping grant resources for various roadmap elements.  The draft roadmap for smart manufacturing was posted on its website within two months after the workshop.

Another ongoing well-known technology roadmap effort is under the purview of the Semiconductor Industry Association.  While the scope of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductor (ITRS) is much larger than what is envisioned here, it still contains many similar elements such as the forecast of process, sensor, and computer system technological needs in the future, the cooperation of industry, academia, and government in addressing these needs, and the emphasis on manufacturing excellence that is critical to the continued economic well-being of the U.S.

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SMART Research Partners

The SMART CN will have at least 11 participating organizations that are briefly described below.  Since almost all of these organizations are represented on the steering committee, this will provide an opportunity to develop coordinated planning on how each network member will participate in the RCN.

CACHE Corporation
is a not-for-profit organization consisting of 21 university and 7 industry members.  Its purpose is to promote cooperation among universities, industry and government in the development and distribution of computer-related and/or technology-based educational aids for the chemical engineering profession.  CACHE also operates short courses and research conferences on subjects of interest to the PSE community.  The Co-PI Edgar is the Executive Director of CACHE.
Center for Advanced Process Decision-Making (CAPD), Carnegie-Mellon
The center is engaged in process systems engineering research for the process industries.  Its research areas include advanced computer-based techniques for process synthesis, optimization, control, planning and scheduling, energy systems, and molecular computing.  The center has 22 member companies.
Center for Sustainable Engineering, Syracuse University
Supported by the NSF, EPA, the Center has been dedicated to helping engineering professors update their courses and develop new ones to account for rapidly changing world conditions that are transforming the practice of engineering.
National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), Ann Arbor, MI
NCMS fuels innovative solutions for manufacturers, especially small to medium enterprises.  A nonprofit, member-based consortium, the organization’s objective is to drive the global competitiveness of North American Manufacturers through collaboration, innovation, and advanced technologies for digital manufacturing.
Institute for Sustainability (IFS), AIChE, New York
The IFS serves the needs of and influence the efforts of professionals, academics, industries, and governmental bodies that contribute to the advancement of sustainability R&D and sustainable development.  IfS approaches sustainability from the perspectives of engineering and scientific disciplines with the objective of promoting the societal, economic, and environmental benefits of sustainable engineering.  The PI Huang served on the IFS Managing Board and was Chair of AIChE Sustainable Engineering Forum (SEF) for two years (2008-2009), and is currently Chair of the International Committee.

Post-doctoral Position Opening

Postdoctoral Fellow in the Area of Sustainable Manufacturing at the Department of Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University

A postdoctoral position is available to carry out research and educational activities supporting the NSF-funded a project titled: Sustainable Manufacturing Advances in Research and Technology (SMART) Coordination Network. The funding has been provided through the NSF Research Coordination Networks-Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (RCN-SEES) track. A primary objective of the project is to bridge the gap between the academic knowledge discovery and industrial technology innovation for sustainable manufacturing. Various research, educational, and outreach activities are underway.

The postdoctoral fellow will be involved in various aspects of the project especially the educational component to develop modules on sustainable manufacturing case studies (SMCSs). An SMCS comprises both an interactive, graphically-oriented case study with supporting materials (e.g., data, models, simulations) that help the instructor and the student learn about some aspect of sustainable manufacturing design. The SMCSs will be disseminated to the academic community and will be published using CACHE (Computer Aids in Chemical Engineering) resources (e.g.,


The postdoctoral fellow will work closely with Prof. Mahmoud El-Halwagi (Texas A&M University) in coordination with the project leadership team: Professors Yinlun Huang (Wayne State University), Cliff  Davidson (Syracuse University), Thomas Edgar (University of Texas), and Mario Eden (Auburn University) as well as project partners and students.


The successful candidate will have a PhD in chemical engineering (or related fields) with expertise and experience in process systems engineering and sustainability. Skills in developing and assessing professional educational modules are essential.

The position is available for 12 months. Expected starting date is May 1, 2014. Salary range: $42,000 – 48,000/year


To apply, please refer to position description document here.


Closing date: February 28th, 2014


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