Developing a state-of-art supply chain testbed for engineering education and research at Southern Illinois university Edwardsville


In today's fierce global competition that forces manufacturing enterprises to produce more complicated, reliable and short life cycle products, there is an urgent need for the SIUE to bring its research and educational focus on product life cycle encompassing from design to retail. To promote this shift of the focus, we have recently developed a unique, multi-disciplinary and state-of-the-art laboratory funded by National Science Foundation MRI grant. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the composition and operation of the laboratory, its initial outcome, and the potential benefits for future engineering education and research. In order to develop this new facility, we acquired the new equipment including an automatic storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), an intelligent robot, open-architecture conveyor, a programmable logic controller and RFID module, and integrated them with the existing processing and testing equipment in house. Researchers and students can use this facility to catalyze a wide range of cutting edge research projects spanning mechanical, industrial, manufacturing and electrical engineering and to renovate engineering curriculum to practice the theme of the product life cycle in the subsequent effort. These include: (i) studying the impact of RFID on integrated logistics from factory to end-customer, (ii) developing decision support models and tools for strategic and tactical operations in a sensor-enabled supply chain environment; and (iii) analyzing vulnerability and sensitivity of distributed supply chain networks to various disturbances. This facility can provide a valuable environment for faculty, technical experts and students to work together to develop solutions to manufacturing and supply chain problems in the context of the product life-cycle. Specifically, the laboratory is used as research test-bed and educational platform for faculty and students, by integrating various stages of the product life-cycle including design (CAD) and analysis (CAE), manufacturing (CAM/CIM), warehousing, retailing, and the end-customer interface. Importantly, the laboratory has been designed in a generic manner so that it would allow further additions, which can be available in the future upon technological advancements. For example, the proposed state-of-the-art facility in this project employs RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology to facilitate the integration of manufacturing and inventory control by providing efficient and reliable tracking of product flow throughout the system. In a real life setting to produce "chess sets," the students have opportunities to participate in all stages of the product life-cycle including their design, manufacturing, handling and retailing. In this setting, SIUE Bookstore is a primary retailer of the chess sets. A Webserver system is used to enable online control and integration of information, production, and cash flows.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Journal Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings