Optional Projects

The goal of the project option is to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of the ideas of the course in a less restrictive, more realistic manner than in an exam or a homework assignment. In most cases, the project will require you to combine material from the course with other material. People who have worked in factories have a definite advantage. The project is optional, to replace the first half of the final.


  • Write a one-to-two page project proposal by Lecture 15. If I approve, you may do the project.
  • I may ask for a revision of the proposal.
  • Give me an informal written progress report by Lecture 21. I may ask you not to proceed with the project if I don't think you have enough time to do a good job.
  • Hand in a project report with the second half of the final. The length of the report is negotiable, with the expectation that it will be in the neighbourhood of 20 pages double-spaced.

In the proposal, describe the goal of the work and the procedure that you will follow.

Sample Project Ideas

The following is a set of sample ideas. You are not restricted to them. In fact, if too many people want to do the same thing, some proposals will be rejected for that reason alone. Feel free to submit other ideas.

  • If you have some factory experience, apply the models and methods of this course to a factory (or a portion of a factory) that you are familiar with. Show how to improve the design of the factory, or how to design an operating policy.
  • If you have some factory experience, critique the models and methods of this course. Describe their limitations, that is, why they would not be helpful in redesigning or operating the factory you are familiar with. Propose one or more alternate models, and go as far as possible in analyzing and developing them.
  • Develop some tools that will help the optimization of a production system design. A 1993 student did this for transfer lines. A 1994 student continued the work, and based a Master's thesis and published a paper on it. There is still plenty of work to do in this area.
  • Add financial calculations to the transfer line models. That is, do a present value analysis, cash-flow analysis, etc.
  • Do some interesting, but not too ambitious, original mathematics. Examples might include: prove conservation of flow for one of the transfer line models; get an analytical solution for a simple hedging point system; propose a new algorithm to approximate hedging points; come up with ideas for extending the transfer line decomposition to non-tandem lines and test with simulation; etc. It is hard to know in advance what will be easy and what will be difficult. (That makes it hard to make suggestions, and impossible to guarantee that the suggestions are doable.) For me to approve such a project, you must include an outline of the proof (or preliminary simulation results, or whatever) when you hand in the proposal.