Configuration of Complex Systems

Many systems involve various parts and components that all must work together correctly.  This can be anything from a home entertainment system to a complex manufacturing line.  Exsys Corvid® expert systems help in configuration and compatibility issues by dynamically selecting components that will work together. They can also validate configurations that are generated by other means to make sure any potential problems are detected and resolved before the system is shipped to the customer.  Configuration problems are ideal for knowledge automation expert systems since they generally involve large numbers of detailed rules that must be processed systematically - something Corvid handles superbly. 

When a customer buys a system made up of various components, they expect all the parts to be complimentary with each other, all the cables and connectors to be correct and everything to go together smoothly.  

Unfortunately for complex systems, having someone validate the configuration can be very time consuming and difficult.  There can be many levels of detail to consider and validate. For example, consider a simple problem of various electronic components that must be arranged in a rack.

  • Can all the components communicate?
  • Is there enough space in the rack?
  • Are there enough sockets to make the connections?
  • Can the components be arranged in an effective way?
  • Are there enough cables of the correct type and length?
  • Is everything needed "In Stock" and deliverable?
  • Is it the "Best" configuration possible?

These and many other considerations need to be checked, and a change in one component can ripple through to the others. The more complex a system, the more interrelated factors require checking.  It is a difficult task for a person, but is very well suited to an Exsys Corvid Knowledge Automation Expert System.  The Exsys Inference Engine supports "Backward Chaining", which is a way to breakdown a problem into small sub-tasks that are automatically used as needed.  This allows the configuration logic to be defined in relatively simple, detailed rules on specific aspects of the design.  The Inference Engine will find and use the rules it requires to derive information needed by higher-level rules.  For example, a higher-level rule determines there must be enough sockets to make all the required connections.  Lower-level rules would describe what connectors each component has and the options for how these could be connected.  Backward Chaining can automatically call the appropriate lower-level rules to determine the values needed in higher-level rules.  It may sound complicated, but it is really quite simple, and the Exsys Corvid Inference Engine does it automatically.  Backward Chaining can be used many layers deep, allowing even very complex configurations to be divided up into rules that are easy to understand and maintain.

Corvid systems can also help a salesperson in designing a configuration by only allowing the selection of components that would work together based on key products. It can even take into account inventory, deadlines or data on the customers special needs and requirements. Systems can even be designed to optimize the configuration to find the ""Best" solution based on price, availability, function or other measures.

Exsys Corvid's development tools are designed for non-programmers. Rules are easy to read and written in English (or whatever language is preferred) and Algebra so configuration experts can build expert systems without having to learn complex syntax or jargon. Corvid systems can be integrated with corporate databases and XML files, so component details can be stored and maintained separate from the systems core logic.

Systems can be run interactively, helping staff and customers build correctly configured orders, or integrated into business processes to check orders entered by other means.

Exsys has been helping companies build expert systems since 1983. It has been used to configure hardware as complex as computer servers and microwave communication systems. The powerful Corvid Inference Engine can even handle very complex logic and configuration problems requiring iteration down many levels of components.

Contact us today for a free Web conference. We'd be happy to discuss your configuration and sales support project, and provide practical and realistic solutions.


Some case studies of Exsys Configuration systems.
(Click on the titles for more details):

  • Online Computer Configuration
    Hewlett Packard
  • Configuration of Computer Integrated Manufactured Cells (CIM)
    Rockwell Automation/Allen-Bradley
  • Improving Operational and Financial Performance
    Cytec Industries Inc.
  • Restoration of Shipboard Power Systems During Battle
    Texas A&M University for the US Navy
  • Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Selection
    Sandia National Laboratory
  • Forestry Conservation Planning
    South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
  • Improved Accuracy in Nautical Chart Cartography
    National Ocean Service
  • Aircraft Material and Process Design
    Rockwell International
  • Product Selection with Inventory Control
    Applied Controls Inc.
  • Satellite Diagnostics
    US Air Force - Space and Missile Systems Center
  • Control Panel Layout Design Aid
    An Engineering Company
  • Simulation of a Complex Manufacturing System
    California State University

"The interactive advice system provides quick, accurate hardware sizing, network configuration, and usage recommendations for SAP Business Information Warehouse implementations. The system turns expert knowledge from SAP, HP internal competency centers, the HP Enterprise Server Group and existing SAP BW implementations, into an easy to use advisory tool"