Go find and optimize your Network

Author : Geert Meulenbelt

Just like Software, one can easily say that Networks are eating the world. But what exactly is a network? At DCbrain we look at Networks as a combination of Assets (or so-called nodes) that are inter-connected (links between the nodes) and have a flow running through these links (a physical volume with an associated time-stamp).

Let’s take a closer look at these three characteristics. First of all we have a number of Network Assets:

  • Assets that Produce
  • Assets that Store
  • Assets that Consume

Obviously Assets are not always exactly Assets. Production or consumption may just be entry or exit points to or from the Network. Also, Storage is not necessarily part of the equation.
Then Assets are connected between each-other and flows are running in between. This can be pipes (gas, fluids…), cables (fiber, electricity…) or any means of transportation (truck, train, conveyor belt…). Sometimes flows are regular such as hot water in a District Heating Network; at other times flows may be irregular such as decisions to transport materials between manufacturing facilities to face fluctuations in demand.

A general tendency is that networks become increasingly complex. The world is more and more interconnected with blurred frontiers between suppliers and customers. At the same time external constraints impose and even greater challenge, for example regulatory constraints related to C02 emissions.

Artificial intelligence is a perfect means to optimize the inherent complexity of network.
But first of all you need to identify your own network. If you are working for a gaz, heating or electricity network everything is already in the name. But on other occasions it is far from evident that your business challenge is actually a network challenge.
Let’s give a few examples of some of the more hidden networks:

A manufacturer of raw materials pools several production and storage facilities within a country cluster. There are some (expensive) flows between the production sites, different means of transportation, dedicated storage facilities and storage capacity at production as well as decisions to make on trans-border deliveries. Although demand forecast plays an evident role, this is typically a network challenge.

A logistic expert is facing a flow of heterogeneous products (size, maximum storage temperature) that need to be stored in different warehouses each with different capacities and characteristics with hard to forecast customer behavior. Network flow technology can optimize storage and thereby avoid heavy investments in new facilities.

A manufacturer produces a product that is cut into pieces. Network flows help not only to optimize the production process itself, but also to master the sequence of customer orders.

With these examples in mind, we hope you are now capable to identify your own network optimization challenge and contact us for further assistance!

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