Issue date: 21 October 2008
Computer scientists in the Complex Cooperative Systems (CCS) research centre at the University of the West of England have developed a tool called CRISTAL (Co-operating Repositories and Information Systems for Tracking Assembly Lifecycles) that has revolutionised management systems used to control complex workflow procedures.
Emanating from the work carried out by CCS on the management of the processes involved in the construction of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), one of CERN's new generation of experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, CRISTAL has enabled scientists to track thousands of constituent parts through hundreds of complex activities over CMS's extended 10-year construction period. Furthermore it has been developed with flexibility and adaptability in mind and can be reused across the industrial spectrum from concurrent engineering design to business process management.
Director of CCS, Professor Richard McClatchey explains, “CRISTAL is designed to deliver distributed workflow and data management infrastructures and support technologies.
“It provides ready solutions to many of the problems in commercial production management. The beauty of the CRISTAL system is that it has been tried and tested on one of the worlds most complex, demanding and high profile environments at CERN, but can be customised for use by companies and organisations in the manufacturing, telecommunications and many other sectors.
“CRISTAL can also be used as a management tool in areas such as bio-informatics and health informatics – for tracking research findings or for monitoring the efficiency of different treatment programmes. It is also effective for large-scale engineering projects when workers and managers in scattered locations need to know the status of a current work programme.”
In the past ten years the CRISTAL technology has proven itself at CERN and has enabled the tracking of the over half a million constituents of the CMS Electromagnetic Calorimeter (ECal). It has gathered several terabytes of information about the history, calibration and testing of these elements so that the ECal detector can safely operate for the next 10-15 years in CMS. In doing so it has demonstrated the efficiency and application of the software engineering techniques employed by CCS personnel in the design of CRISTAL and its open, and extensible architecture has facilitated the re-use of CRISTAL in other domains.
CRISTAL has been developed into the Agilium product now being marketed by M1i in France and, in the near future, across Europe for process and product management in many domains including engineering, manufacturing and in the retail sector.
Richard McClatchey concludes, “We are very excited at the potential and capacity of Agilium to have a real impact on businesses, organisations and research. We will be studying a range of applications over the next few years with a view to establishing CRISTAL/Agilium as the software of choice for managing complex business processes.”
The Centre for Complex Cooperative Systems
The Centre for Complex Cooperative Systems (CCCS) undertakes computer science research in the fields of large-scale distributed information systems and process management. The Centre is based at the University of the West of England but has an international focus. Centre researchers are based within major industrial enterprises and research institutions in the UK and other parts of Europe, which enables them both to forge strong relationships and to experience in practice the sophisticated distributed systems and databases which form the focus of their research activity.
The research is motivated by the rapid convergence of telecommunication and information system industries where the demand for effective ways to integrate systems and to handle information has become critical. The CCCS research rationale is one of reducing the complexity of systems interaction, of making information systems adaptable, available and evolutionary to meet future demands. Without building large-scale demonstrators or by having access to existing large-scale real systems it is not possible to reach positive conclusions regarding issues of complexity, scalability and real-world suitability.
Particularly strong links have been established with CERN, the European particle physics centre near Geneva, whose initiatives have had a profound impact on developments in complex cooperative systems; indeed, the basis of the internet world wide web (WWW) was invented there. CCCS is among a selection of the most prestigious technical and scientific institutions throughout the world who have been invited to join CERN as associate institutions, and is the first non-physics body to be honoured in this way. Work done by CCCS researchers on sophisticated computer systems has offered generic solutions to communication problems in spheres as diverse as environmental science, astronomy, engineering, the oil industry and the National Health Service.
For more information on the work of the CCCS please e-mail: Richard.McClatchey@uwe.ac.uk
or by phone: 0117 32 83176