Systems Dynamics and Complexity

The course encompasses a large range of approaches towards systems and their dynamics, with particular emphasis on problem solving. It starts from basic insights on why real problems are not simple but complex, and why systems do not always do what we expect.

Based on that, we introduce tools and methods commonly used in Systems Engineering (systems oriented management) and Project Management to analyse problems at large, to search for solutions and to optimize project scheduling. The part of Systems Dynamics focuses on models of systems with various positive and negative feedback loops, which exhibit, for example, unwanted oscillations. Using examples of Economic Dynamics, such as the adoption of new products or the competition between technologies, we also develop an understanding of the specific nonlinear dynamics in markets. Eventually, we investigate the effects of Nonlinear Dynamics on the instability of systems and their long-term predictiveness, with applications in supply chains and manufacturing systems.

In addition to the theoretical framework developed, emphasis of the course is put on quantitative tools for systems modeling and on real world examples from industries and markets. Weekly self-study tasks provide opportunities to deepen the theoretical understanding of the topics, to develop own solutions in small groups, and to learn about the software VENSIM used for systems dynamics modeling.

 

Participants of the course should have an engineering background and be interested in learning about systems dynamics at large, both from a practical and a modeling perspective.

Fall Semester 2015

 

Lecture Thursday 08-10 HG D 1.2  
Exercise Tuesday 12-13 HG D 1.2  
Exam end-of-semester examination HG E 5  
Repetition Exam

Monday, February 29 2016, 16-18

HG E 22  

Course material is available to registered students in the Moodle platform.

Resources for this course

Course Catalogue Entry

Lecture Materials
(Access is restricted to registered students. Password will be emailed before the first lecture)

Syllabus

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Lecture 01 -- Overview, Basic Introduction

1. Systems: Basic Concepts
  • about this course: administrative issues, self-study tasks, seminars
  • complex systems versus systems dynamics perspectives, systems design

Self-Study Task 01: Systems thinking (discussion exercise)

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Lecture 02 -- Systems Engineering I

2. Systems Engineering: Problem Solving Cycle
  • systems engineering/ systems oriented management: basic approach
  • problem solving cycle (PSC) I: situation analysis, definition of objectives

Self-Study Task 02: PSC -- Airport example I (discussion exercise)

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Lecture 03 -- Systems Engineering II / Project Management I

  • problem solving cycle II: search for solutions, validation and decision
3. Project Management: Scheduling Techniques
  • project phases, milestone-trend diagram
  • bar chart scheduling

Self-Study Task 03: PSC -- Airport example II (discussion exercise)

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Lecture 04 -- Project Management II

  • critical path method: precedence network, forward and backward pass, float

Self-Study Task 04: PEST and SWOT analysis (discussion exercise)

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Lecture 05 -- Project Management III

  • milestone-trend diagram, feedback control loop, stock and flow diagrams
  • case study: critical changes in project management

Self-Study Task 05: Critical chain project management (discussion exercise)

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Lecture 06 -- Systems Dynamics I

4. Systems Dynamics: Oscillatory Behavior
  • What is modeling? software program overview (Vensim)
  • feedback processes, causal loops
  • example: predator-prey population dynamics

Self-Study Task 06: Population dynamics (Vensim exercise)

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Lecture 07 -- Systems Dynamics II

  • Workforce-inventory model
  • case study: high velocity industry

Self-Study Task 07: Workforce-inventory dynamics (Vensim exercise)

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Lecture 08 -- Systems Dynamics III

  • oscillatory behavior in supply chains, bullwhip effect
  • innovation adoptation and product life cycle

Self-Study Task 08: Adoptation of innovation (Vensim exercise)

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Lecture 09 -- Economic Dynamics I

5. Economic Dynamics: Technology Adoptation
  • models of technology diffusion
  • sources of innovations, 'word of mouth' effect, fads

Self-Study Task 09: Network effects (discussion exercise)

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Lecture 10 -- Economic Dynamics II

  • linear and nonlinear Polya processes
  • path dependence, lock-in effects (example: Qwerty)

Self-Study Task 10: Competing products (Vensim exercise)

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Lecture 11 -- Nonlinear Dynamics I

6. Nonlinear Dynamics: Instability and Chaos
  • cobweb dynamics: elasticities of supply, demand
  • bifurcations, logistic map

Self-Study Task 11: Cobweb dynamics (Vensim exercise)

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Lecture 12 -- Nonlinear Dynamics II

  • chaos in manufacturing systems
  • case study: wetbench example

Self-Study Task 12: Questions/Answers

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Lecture 13 -- Nonlinear Dynamics III

  • stability analysis, supply networks
  • complexity in enterprises (and beyond)

Self-Study Task 13: Exam preparation