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Systems Technology Paper

June 24th, 1977

Paper, Systems Technology Group, ICI Europa

S F Bush


Systems Technology is of growing importance to industry because of the increasing emphasis on performance. The performance of a business, works or process, is rarely the sum of its parts separately determined. The need has therefore arisen to manage the complexity arising from the large number of factors which determine the whole. Meeting this need is the function of Systems Technology.

Section 1 of the paper outlines basic concepts which have been shown in real life to meet this criterion. Sections 2 and 3 illustrate their current and potential value by describing briefly some of the resulting methods developed, and applications made, over a number of years to unit operations, particularly chemical reactors, processes, polymer processing, factory control, and business planning. Examples are taken from the chemicals, fibres and plastics fields.

While not universally appropriate, a contribution common to most of the projects and fields tackled has been to perceive a common structure to two or more disparate problems and thus to decompose optimally otherwise very intractable problems. This opens up what seems to be a fruitful and systematic mode of technology transfer which is only at the beginning of its development. Examples are highlighted in sections 2 and 3.

A common need in many projects is to determine the boundary of the system considered and the appropriate level of theoretical and experimental or observational detail within it. A systematic procedure has been evolved for this, which while in many cases can be regarded as only common sense, has a clear relevance both to the conduct of a particular research project and to judging its likely cost and benefit.