The FMS Software Library (1979/ 84)
The goals and objectives were to research, develop, validate and implement an openly integratable set of software packages that small-to-medium size manufacturers could use for developing small scale flexible manufacturing and assembly cells and systems.
The analytical / engineering challenge was to develop novel dynamic scheduling, capacity planning, tool management, balancing, testing, etc. algorithms that could cope with the variety of different machines and systems and that were fast enough for real-time use (e.g. dynamic scheduling).
The method/ model was validated by designing/ implementing and testing various individual packages in various small and larger projects in Nottingham, mostly with Plessey, then with companies such as the Swedish Sandvick Coromant, with FMS developers in Brighton, with Unimation, with Dainichi-Kikko, and others.
The practical, academic, industrial use and spinoffs included several academic and industrial demonstrations and implementations of the FMS Software Library packages, most importantly several years later, in 1986-87, when General Motors adopted the entire library for educating hundreds of their systems engineers as part of a CIM program that I have designed and delivered in Detroit, Michigan, during 1986/ 87. Furthermore as a result of an "Innovators in Engineering and Science" exhibition in Brighton, where the Library was demonstrated in 1983, a short article was written about my work in the Financial Times (UK).
Major lessons learned included the fact that the modular, open source FMS Software Library
Nevertheless, having seen my software being used by over 900 GM (General Motors, Detroit, USA) and EDS (Electronic Data Systems, Detroit, USA) engineers almost 10 years after I wrote the first specification was an enormous surprise. It rewarded me for all the hard work that I put into this R&D project.
The cover design of the FMS Software Library brochure. This integrated factory control concept was born in the pre-objected oriented and distributed database, computer graphics and Intranet/ intranet era... around 20 years ahead of its time...
The different packages that were developed, or that were under development for the FMS Software Library. (Note, that these were times when the PC just started to emerge and there was no database or networking solution that one could have adopted).
A typical standard command screen of the FMS Software Library. Note, that these were times when every screen was character oriented since "normal" computers had very limited graphics, and the Mac / PC windows environment wasn't there yet! Nevertheless the command screens as well as all the input screens I have designed were based on a "SafeInput" program that I wrote, that did not allow the user to select any invalid commands, or enter any invalid data (as an example view the next screen below this command screen). This interface was used by hundreds of students at Trent Nottingham, as well as almost 10 years later by graduate engineering students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and by professional engineers and managers at General Motors / Saturn and EDS in Detroit, USA. The system was fast even on slow (20-40 MHz) computers of that time.
A typical data input screen of the FMS Software Library. The "SafeInput" program that I wrote, prevented the user of entering any invalid data by having checked the attribute as well as the realistic range of data for each input. (Obviously all of these entries were programmable, so one could customize every input screen and every input as required in a simple CASE...OF structure in the Pascal source code).