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Software systems research outfit shifts focus to transportation logistics

When Ohio University's Center for Advanced Software Systems Integration was founded nearly 18 years ago, there was no telling where its researchers' work would take them. Two decades of study have steadily shifted the center's focus, leading the Board of Trustees to issue a name change to the Center for Advanced Systems and Transportation Logistics Engineering, or CASTLE.

Robert Judd, center director and chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, said the process to change the name began during the center's usual five-year review this fall.

"We looked at what our expertise is and who our associated faculty are, and we looked at the kind of research that would be likely in the future," Judd said. "We crafted a name that reflected all of that."

Since its founding in 1995, the research center has acquired faculty, and subsequent research grant funding, with expertise and interest in systems engineering and transportation systems improvement, rather than software integration. The center now specializes in modeling, optimization, scheduling, process planning, reliability, human factors, data mining and transportation logistics.

One of the center's primary partners is General Electric Aviation, for whom researchers develop cost estimation models for the manufacturing of its jet engines. These models help GE design engines that are less expensive to manufacture. By determining early in the manufacturing process how design changes will impact manufacturing and cost, the center's work has drastically increased the accuracy of these cost estimates. Several years ago, GE expanded its work with the center to apply similar models to its gas turbine engine manufacturing process.

Another systems engineering project focuses on how neural networks, a system of data processing and modeling, can be applied to monitoring of watersheds to improve their ecological health. Projects are also ongoing in automated process planning, scheduling systems, and inventory and ordering controls.

Judd said another impetus for the change was the strategic thrust in the college for innovation and support for the transportation industry. The center is working with other Russ College units, including the Department of Civil Engineering and the Avionics Engineering Center, to develop multidisciplinary projects supporting the transportation logistics field.