Today’s systems are complex and interrelated. Mission success depends on all subordinate systems working together. If one link fails, the operation can fail. Fortunately LMI’s new methodology—SysLinks™—helps planners assess the performance of complex systems and balance logistics requirements against operational risk.
SysLinks, developed jointly by the LMI Research Institute and Dr. Vitali Volovoi, formerly a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Aerospace Engineering and now an independent risk and reliability consultant, links reliability and maintainability models with spares optimization for complex networks. It does this by leveraging several modeling and simulation methods, including LMI’s ASM® sparing model, Monte Carlo simulation, and a user-friendly version of stochastic Petri nets called Abridged Petri Nets (APN).
Managing Scarce Resources
“As systems become more complex, they are harder to manage. It’s difficult for managers to know exactly where to invest their scarce resources,” said Dr. Dave Peterson, a readiness-based sparing researcher at LMI. “They need a methodology that is robust enough to tackle the complexities of today’s systems.”
Traditional reliability tools model performance of a single system. SysLinks is unique because it assesses the performance of all related subsystems and the tradeoffs between inventory investment in those subsystems and overall system performance.
“The modeling enables you to change the behavior of the system to your advantage. If you have limited resources and want to improve performance, SysLinks will recommend where to invest,” said Volovoi.
For example, the Air National Guard recently used its MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) to provide real-time imaging to crews fighting California wildfires. SysLinks enables planners to run “what-if scenarios” to evaluate whether existing RPA availability is sufficient. If not, would additional aircraft, personnel, or ground control stations best resolve the availability shortfall. “It might also reveal that you don’t have enough pilots, so investing in training would improve availability,” Volovoi explained.
“SysLinks pinpoints investments that will have the biggest impact on mission success and are most relevant to the person on the ground,” added Peterson.
Visualization Aids Decision Making
SysLinks’ implementation of patent-pending APN gives it the flexibility to model the dynamic interactions and dependencies in complex systems. It also provides visualization capabilities, enabling users to graphically model failure dependences and see how those failures propagate throughout the system.
“In the animation mode, SysLinks shows users where bottlenecks are occurring or processes are bogging down. It takes the abstract numbers describing system performance and translates that into something tangible that users can see,” explained Peterson. “If they change a part of the model, they can see how that change plays out.” These visualizations enable decision makers to quickly spot system weaknesses.
Visualization also facilitates SysLinks’ implementation. “It’s also useful for debugging,” added Volovoi. “Visualization helps ensure that the model corresponds to reality.” Users can see whether the model correctly reflects their operations and easily make refinements for greater accuracy.
SysLinks also differs from static reliability tools in that it can model complex systems as they age. “It can be used in all life-cycle phases—acquisition, deployment, sustainment, and retirement,” Peterson said.
Recommendations for Getting Started
For customers seeking to better target investments in complex systems to achieve performance gains, Volovoi had these suggestions:
- Don’t be afraid to start
- Build the model incrementally
- Define a high-level process first
- Drill down to more detail later.
“Getting started can be overwhelming,” observed Volovoi. “Start first with your concept of operations in abstract terms.” The transparency and feedback that users get from SysLinks’ visualization will enable them to improve the model and so they can drill deeper into their operation later. LMI’s experts guide organizations through this process by helping them extract system complexities and input those realities into the model.
Development of SysLinks was a natural fit for LMI with its 50-year history in logistics. A six-person team spent three years building the methodology. The firm’s nonprofit status and recognition as a trusted third party also facilitated its collaboration with Dr. Volovoi.
“LMI has 30 years of experience implementing readiness-based sparing,” noted Peterson. “By teaming with Dr. Volovoi, we were able to marry our sparing insights with his understanding of system design and reliability. As a result, we have a methodology that’s richer than what we could have developed separately.”