I thought that I would start some posts in this blog about some previous research that I have been involved in- Holonic Manufacturing Systems. I feel that the theory and the fundamental problem that it addresses are still very relevant in todays world - and maybe even more so?
The Holonic Manufacturing System (HMS) is a new paradigm for next-generation manufacturing systems, which presents a concept that can be used to achieve agile manufacturing systems. It suggests a new paradigm in manufacturing, which changes our old outlook, yet brings many challenging technical problems to solve. The HMS theory focuses specifically on the field of manufacturing control and information technology in manufacturing. HMS is aimed at meeting the challenges of manufacturing environment for mass customization or low-volume and high-variety products. The idea behind HMS is to provide a dynamic and decentralized manufacturing process, in which humans are effectively integrated, so that changes can be made dynamically and continuously.
The central concept of HMS is the term “Holon”, which originates from the work of A. Koestler. A Holon is defined as simultaneously a whole and a part of the whole, thus it can be made up of other holons. This property ensures that holons are stable forms, which can survive disturbances. Furthermore, a Holon is autonomous and co-operative and sometimes intelligent. This property ensures that they are intermediate forms, which provide the proper functionality for the form they are part of. Alternatively, holons have a self-assertive tendency, which is a manifestation of their autonomous nature, and have an integrative tendency, which expresses dependence on the larger whole or their co-operative nature. The Holon's hybrid characteristics allows for entities that co-operate with other entities by offering services to them (servers) and at the same time can act autonomously as free a entity (free agent).
Finally the notion of a “holarchy” is introduced as a dynamic hierarchy of self-regulating holons. The strength of a holonic organization, or holarchy, is that it enables the construction of very complex systems that are nonetheless efficient in the use of resources, highly resilient to disturbances (both internal and external), and adaptable to changes in the environment in which they exist. The HMS paradigm seeks to translate this concept, that Koestler developed for social organizations and living organisms, into a set of appropriate concepts for manufacturing industries. The concept combines the best features of hierarchical and heterarchical (the opposite of a hierarchical) organization, since it preserves the stability of a hierarchy while providing the dynamic flexibility of heterarchy.
I know that this is very academic - I will follow up with some posts that exemplify this theory in the future. What do you think?