Current Bachelor & Master Thesis Topics

The Production & Logistics Networks Workgroup is currently expressly not offering any more thesis topics except the ones listed below. If you are interested, please read the hints on how to write a thesis with us and contact the supervisor mentioned below.

1. The Role of New Technologies and Digital Platforms in Targeting and Engaging with Low-Income Segments: Best Practices from China

Topic Description and Main Steps
This thesis aims to explore the meaning of digitalization for targeting low-income market segments in China and ultimately for poverty alleviation. One such example is the Taobao Villages phenomena, which were developed as a model for harnessing the digital platform to promote economic growth and expand employment by developing e-commerce in rural areas.
Firstly, the student is to explore the size and characteristics of the Chinese low-income segments, by combining a secondary data analysis (for example from the National Bureau of Statistics of China) and review of existing literature. Secondly, the student is to conduct
multiple case-studies of Chinese firms or initiatives that include a technology or digital platform as a core component, and target or engage with the low-income market segments. Cases should be built based on existing academic literature, grey literature (ex. company websites and social media accounts, consulting papers or reputable new sources) but should also include primary data (ex. via interviews or questionnaire).

Student’s Skill-Set

  • Highly motivated, driven and curious
  • Interest in exploring the role of firms in sustainable development
  • Good English skills, Fluent Mandarin is an advantage

Contact Details
Start date is as early as possible. If you are interested in this thesis topic, you should make yourself familiar with the basic concepts mentioned. Please prepare a 2-page proposal in which you state why you think this topic is of practical relevance, why you think that you are the right person to work on this thesis project and your planned schedule. More details can be found in the following website: https://www.scm.rwth-aachen.de/education/how-towrite-a-thesis-with-us/

Please submit your proposal to:
Stephanie Knizkov, Msc. (knizkov@scm.rwth-aachen.de)
www.scm.rwth-aachen.de
Lehrstuhl für das Management für Industrie 4.0 /Chair for Management of Digitalization and Automation

 

2. Risikomanagement im Kontext von Industrie 4.0

Hintergrund
Konzeptionell eingerahmt unter dem Begriff der Industrie 4.0 erlebt die industrielle Produktion seit Jahren die zunehmende Nutzung etablierter- ebenso wie die Einführung innovativer Technologien auf Hard- und Softwareebene. Die so voranschreitende Vernetzung und Digitalisierung von Maschinen, (Vor-)Produkten, Mitarbeitern und IT-Systemen über den kompletten Shopfloor, das ganze Unternehmen und die vollständige Supply Chain hinweg birgt zahlreiche und insbesondere interdisziplinäre Implikationen für die Disziplin des Risikomanagements, die weit über populäre Leuchtturm-Themen wie das der „Cybersecurity“ hinausgehen. Es gilt, interdisziplinäre Risiken der neuen Technologien anwendungsspezifisch zu erfassen und im nächsten Schritt korrespondierende Mitigationsstrategien zu entwickeln, um Unternehmen die Implementierung zu erleichtern und somit die Umsetzung des Konzepts Industrie 4.0 effektiv zu unterstützen.

Ihre Aufgaben

  • Themenspezifische Literaturrecherche und -auswertung
  • Formulierung und Abgrenzung einer oder mehrerer Forschungsfragen
  • Analyse von anwendungsspezifischen Risiken und Erfassung passender Mitigationsstrategien, bspw. auf Basis von Fallstudien und Experteninterviews

Ihr Profil

  • Studierende_r des Wirtschaftsingenieurwesens oder der Betriebswirtschaftslehre
  • Sehr gute Deutsch- und Englischkenntnisse in Wort und Schrift
  • Selbstständigkeit, Zuverlässigkeit und sorgfältige Arbeitsweise
  • Großes Interesse an den Bereichen Industrie 4.0 und Risikomanagement

Was wir bieten

  • Einblicke in state-of-the-art Forschungs- und Industrieprojekte im Bereich Industrie 4.0
  • Option zur Betreuung von Abschlussarbeiten in Kooperation mit Industrieunternehmen
  • Regelmäßigen Austausch im Rahmen der Betreuung
  • Möglichkeit zu flexibler Zeiteinteilung und eigenständigem Arbeiten

Sprache

  • Deutsch
  • Englisch

Bitte schicken Sie bei Interesse Ihre Unterlagen (kurzes Proposal (1-2 Seiten, siehe auch www.scm.rwth-aachen.de/education/ihre-abschlussarbeit), Lebenslauf, Zeugnisse, aktueller Auszug des Notenspiegels) an die angegebene E-Mail-Adresse.

Ansprechpartner
Manuel Zimmermann
Research Associate
Tel.: +49 (0) 241 80 96175
E-Mail: zimmermann@scm.rwth-aachen.de

 

3. The Role of New Technologies and Digital Platforms in Bottom of the Pyramid Markets: A Systematic Literature Review

Topic Description and Main Steps
This thesis aims to explore the meaning of digitalization for targeting the low-income market segments in the developing world, also known as Base of the Pyramid (BOP) Markets. For example, it is well known that mobile technology has created an entire wave of changes in Africa with banking and financial services being offered via mobile phones (see M-Pesa in Kenya). However, in addition to providing new services, technologies such as mobile are also revolutionizing business models of existing products. For example, mobile technology has enabled unique new models such as pay-as-you-go in the off-grid energy industry, across subSaharan Africa and India. Despite their prevalence in practice, digitalization and its unique effects in BOP markets is rarely addressed in academic literature. As of yet, there is no systematic analysis of application (fields), of potentials and challenges available.
The student will conduct a profound and systematic literature review on on the prevalence of digitalization and new technologies in academic literature on BOP markets. This means, he or she will systematically analyze a set of research articles in a selection of research journals using a pre-defined set of search terms to derive an overview of the status digitalization in BOP markets. Before, the student needs to familiarize him- or herself with the concepts of BOP markets and digitalization, as well as with the research method “systematic literature review”. In particular, in the phase of selecting, journals, articles and search terms, the student will be closely supervised and supported.

Student’s Skill-Set

  • Highly motivated, driven and curious
  • Interest in exploring the role of firms in sustainable development
  • Good English skills

Contact Details
Start date is as early as possible. If you are interested in this thesis topic, you should make yourself familiar with the basic concepts mentioned. Please prepare a 2-page proposal in which you state why you think this topic is of practical relevance, why you think that you are the right person to work on this thesis project and your planned schedule. More details can be found in the following website: https://www.scm.rwth-aachen.de/education/how-towrite-a-thesis-with-us/

Please submit your proposal to:
Stephanie Knizkov, Msc. (knizkov@scm.rwth-aachen.de)
www.scm.rwth-aachen.de
Lehrstuhl für das Management für Industrie 4.0 /Chair for Management of Digitalization and Automation

 

4. The Bottom of the Economic Pyramid in Developed Countries: Potential for Reverse Innovations from the Global South

Topic Description and Main Steps
This thesis aims to explore the unique challenges and characteristics of low-income market segments in Europe and compare them with those of Base of the Pyramid (BOP) markets in developing countries. For example, these can be connected to challenges of individuals in
such markets (income level, income volatility, access to formal institutions and services, social exclusion etc.) or of the environment itself (urban vs. rural, poor infrastructure, lack of reach of formal regulatory bodies, etc.). How are BOP markets in Europe and in the developing world similar? How are they different?
Firstly, the student is to explore the size and characteristics of the European BOP segments, by combining a profound secondary data analysis (for example from EUROSTAT or OECD data). Additionally, the student will complement this by conducting expert interviews with relevant stakeholders in Europe (examples can include NGOs, Start-ups and EU institutions targeting poverty or associated challenges, etc.).

Student’s Skill-Set

  • Highly motivated, driven and curious
  • Enjoys the independence of exploring new ideas and directions
  • Good English skills

Contact Details
Start date is as early as possible. If you are interested in this thesis topic, you should make yourself familiar with the basic concepts mentioned. Please prepare a 2-page proposal in which you state why you think this topic is of practical relevance, why you think that you are the right person to work on this thesis project and your planned schedule. More details can be found in the following website: https://www.scm.rwth-aachen.de/education/how-towrite-a-thesis-with-us/

Please submit your proposal to:
Stephanie Knizkov, Msc. (knizkov@scm.rwth-aachen.de)
www.scm.rwth-aachen.de
Lehrstuhl für das Management für Industrie 4.0 /Chair for Management of Digitalization and Automation

 

 

 

Bachelor or Master Topics supervised in cooperation with Jacobs University Bremen

Prof. Hütt is Professor of Systems Biology at Jacobs University and has a keen interest in interdisciplinary research. The following thesis topics will be offered in cooperation with Prof. Hütt.

Time constants of biological enzymes as machine capacities
Metabolism is a production process in biological cells, where enzymes (the ‘machines’) convert chemical compounds (metabolites) into other chemical compounds, leading to an intricate network of interacting machines. The striking parallel between metabolism and industrial production systems offers the fascinating possibility to compare evolved and designed systems. As ever more information on metabolic systems becomes electronically available in bioinformatics databases, this parallel can now be quantitatively explored. The goal of the project is to use production planning algorithms for machine capacities, apply them to a metabolic network and see, whether the actual capacities (given by the inverse time constants of enzymes and available via databases) match those predictions.Further reading:
Beber, M. E. and Hütt, M. (2012). How do production systems in biological cells maintain their function in changing environments? Logistics Research, 5(3-4):79–87.
Prof. Hütt
Product diversity and network structure: a minimal model

A comparatively unexplored aspect of manufacturing is the relationship between the production network and the diversity of the manufactured products. Previous work on evolved flow networks (Beber et al. 2013) has shown that the network architecture is strongly affected by the complexity of the network’s required ‘output pattern’. In a series of small investigation we want to understand this phenomenon more deeply and apply the findings to manufacturing.
The goal of the project component described here is to formulate heuristics for generating a production network for a given product structure using path combinatorics. Then the network architectures will be statistically analyzed in order to establish relationships between product diversity and network structure.

Further reading:
Beber, M., Armbruster, D. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2013) The prescribed output pattern regulates the modular structure of flow networks. European Physical Journal B 86, 473. DOI: 10.1140/epjb/e2013-40672-3.

Prof. Hütt
Product diversity and network structure: analysis of evolved flow networks

A comparatively unexplored aspect of manufacturing is the relationship between the production network and the diversity of the manufactured products. Previous work on evolved flow networks (Beber et al. 2013) has shown that the network architecture is strongly affected by the complexity of the network’s required ‘output pattern’. In a series of small investigation we want to understand this phenomenon more deeply and apply the findings to manufacturing.
The goal of the project component described here is to analyze the database from Beber et al. (2013) from the perspective of novel network properties: linearity, path combinatorics and betweenness centrality.

Further reading:
Beber, M., Armbruster, D. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2013) The prescribed output pattern regulates the modular structure of flow networks. European Physical Journal B 86, 473.

Prof. Hütt
Product diversity and network structure: analysis of real production networks

A comparatively unexplored aspect of manufacturing is the relationship between the production network and the diversity of the manufactured products. Previous work on evolved flow networks (Beber et al. 2013) has shown that the network architecture is strongly affected by the complexity of the network’s required ‘output pattern’. In a series of small investigation we want to understand this phenomenon more deeply and apply the findings to manufacturing.
The goal of the project component described here is to study, whether similar relationships are also observed in real manufacturing systems. To this end, product diversity will be analyzed and then statistically compared with the system’s material flow networks.

Further reading:
Beber, M., Armbruster, D. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2013) The prescribed output pattern regulates the modular structure of flow networks. European Physical Journal B 86, 473.

Prof. Hütt
Synchronization as a quantifier of activity patterns: delay avalanches

The various concepts of synchronization attempt to capture the pattern of activity in a production network. It has been established before that high synchronization can lead to system-wide failures and thus reduce the robustness of the system against perturbations (Fretter et al. 2010). This project uses the general model paradigm of ‘avalanches on graphs’ to study this phenomenon further: How does the network architecture facilitate such avalanches? Can we adapt standard avalanche models to account for lateness propagation in production systems?

Further reading:
Fretter, C., Krumov, L., Weihe, K., Müller-Hannemann, M. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2010) Phase synchronization in railway timetables, European Physical Journal B 77, 281-289.

Prof. Hütt
Synchronization as a quantifier of activity patterns: activity as excitable dynamics

The various concepts of synchronization attempt to capture the pattern of activity in a production network. It has been established before that high synchronization can lead to system-wide failures and thus reduce the robustness of the system against perturbations (Fretter et al. 2010). This project asks, how different types of synchronization (termed logistics synchronization and physics synchronization in Chankov et al. 2015) quantify activity patterns in a graph, and thus ‘calibrate’ these measures. In order to understand the generic properties of these synchronization measures, we will use a simple model of activity, namely excitable dynamics on graphs (see, e.g., Müller-Linow et al. 2008) to simulate activity patterns and then analyze the synchronization measures as a function of network architecture and parameters of the dynamics.

Further reading:
Fretter, C., Krumov, L., Weihe, K., Müller-Hannemann, M. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2010) Phase synchronization in railway timetables, European Physical Journal B 77, 281-289.
Chankov, S., Bendul, J. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2015) Synchronization in Manufacturing Systems: Quantification and Relation to Logistics Performance. International Journal of Production Research, under review.
Müller-Linow, M., Hilgetag, C. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2008) Organization of excitable dynamics in hierarchical biological networks. PLoS Computational Biology 4, e1000190.

Prof. Hütt
Sequentiality and linearity of production networks

Important properties of manufacturing processes are determined by the combinatorics of paths in the material flow network (see Garcia et al. 2014 for an example, how such a question is investigated for closed paths). Deterministic linear sequences in this material flow ‘decouple’ parts of the system from other parts. The amount of linearity in a production network is therefore an important architectural quantity. While there is no standard way of measuring the linearity of a network, a rich set of network quantifiers has emerged over the last years addressing aspects of this question. The purpose of this project is to perform a literature review of these quantifiers and then compare them using a small set of reference networks with varying amounts of linearity.

Further reading:
Garcia, G.C., Lesne, A., Hilgetag C.C. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2014) The role of topological cycles in excitable dynamics on graphs. Phys. Rev. E 90, 052805.

Prof. Hütt
The graph chromatic number as a robustness indicator of production networks

The graph coloring problem (distribute colors from a list on a graph such that no same colors are linked) is related to many scheduling problems in logistics. Attempting to distribute the colors based on local decisions only generates coloring dynamics, which are a minimal model of autonomous control (see, e.g., Windt and Hütt 2010). Given a graph, the minimal number of colors for which the graph coloring problem can be solved is called the ‘chromatic number’ of the graph. Qualitatively speaking, this quantity determines, how easy scheduling is on the graph. We can expect that logistics performance of, e.g., a production network will depend strongly on this chromatic number. Using numerical experiments with scheduling software this relationship will be explored.Further reading:
Windt, K. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2010) Graph Coloring Dynamics: A Simple Model Scenario for Distributed Decisions in Logistics. CIRP Annals Manufacturing Technology 59, 461-464.
Prof. Hütt
Network recovery: a literature review with small numerical experiments

How networks recover from perturbations is a general question with deep implications for logistics systems. As an example, in Hao et al. (2015) the performance of a distributed insurance system under spatially and temporally correlated failures has been studied. The goal of this project is to understand, how the recovery of (production or distribution) networks is influenced by their architecture. The starting point will be a literature review of attempts to quantify and analyze network recovery. This survey of theoretical studies will be complemented by own numerical experiments on network recovery.

Further reading:
Hao, Y., Armbruster, D. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2015) Node survival in networks under correlated attacks. PLoS One, in press.

Prof. Hütt
Network representations of production systems

Across many disciplines, the formal language of nodes and links provides an efficient data structure for representing complex systems. Such representations can help comparing diverse systems.  In the case of production systems, nodes can be machines, processes, inventories, products at intermediate stages of production, or check points. Links can represent material flow, regulation, control and decision alternatives.
As an example, in Becker et al. (2011) production systems are represented as networks of cyclically operating devices. In this way, a comparison with traffic networks and production systems in biological cells (metabolic networks) could be achieved.
The goal of this project is to review the different network representations of production systems and analyze, how these network representations can help understand the functioning of these systems.

Further reading:
Becker, T., Beber, M.E., Windt, K., Hütt, M.-Th. and Helbing, D. (2011) Flow control by periodic devices: A unifying language for the description of traffic, production, and metabolic systems. J. Stat. Mech, P05004.

Prof. Hütt
Production networks vs. information processing networks

Across many disciplines, the formal language of nodes and links provides an efficient data structure for representing complex systems. Such representations can help comparing diverse systems.
Such networks tend to fall into two classes: production networks, characterized by their material flow, and information processing networks, characterized by their flow of information.
The goal of this project is a high-level comparison of these two classes of networks: What are the main functional differences (e.g., conservation laws)? Do they differ systematically in their architectures? How do the functional requirements differ for these networks? What do efficiency and robustness mean in each class?

Prof. Hütt
Random walks as a reference model for material flows

Understanding the material flow in manufacturing systems and its impact on logistics performance indicators is one of the principal goals production logistics. In many complex systems, a proper analysis of available data is only possible when contrasted to suitable versions of random data. Here, a simple model for random material flows, based on random walks, will be explored. Over the last decade, random walks on graphs have dramatically enhanced our understanding of the scaling of fluctuations in networks (see, e.g., Kosmidis et al. 2015). The goal of this project is to introduce modifications to a standard random walk (like a preference to move from an input layer to an output layer of the network) and study, how well the random walk reproduces statistical features of real material flows in manufacturing.

Further reading:
Kosmidis, K., Beber, M. and Hütt, M.-Th. (2015) Network heterogeneity and node capacity lead to heterogeneous scaling of fluctuations in random walks on graphs. Advances in Complex Systems 18, 1550007.

Prof. Hütt
Scaling laws in production logistics

Scaling relationships are among the most surprising findings about complex social and technological systems: laws allowing to predict with high accuracy the number of patents, crimes and restaurants just from the population size (see Bettencourt and West 2010); laws relating the number of machines to the number of regulators in production systems in biological cells (Maslov et al. 2009). The goal of this project is the search for such scaling laws in production systems. The starting point will be a survey of publically available databases about company sizes and infrastructures.

Further reading:

Bettencourt, L, and Geoffrey West, G.B. (2010) A unified theory of urban living. Nature 467, 912-913.

Maslov, S., Krishna, S., Pang, T. and Sneppen, K. (2009) Toolbox model of evolution of prokaryotic metabolic networks and their regulation. PNAS 106, 9743.

 Prof. Hütt