Antifragile Production


Addressing Challenges of a Complex and Volatile Environment with Concepts from Biology

  Virtual DNA Strand Copyright: © © Pixabay Transferring Mechanisms from Nature to Technical Systems

In biology, there are systems that take advantage of volatility and stressors. Within the framework of a recently started project, the WZL, the Chair of Biotechnology as well as the Chair of Theory of Science and Technology of the RWTH Aachen University are now carrying out the preliminary work for future research projects that want to transfer these mechanisms from nature to production.

One of the characteristics of complex systems are hardly comprehensible or unknown cause-effect relationships. Therefore, unforeseen disturbances occur in multi-layered production processes, production systems or value-added networks. With increasing volatility, the risk of unexpected, negative events increases. In order to remain successful in the long term, manufacturing companies must therefore address the challenges of unforeseeable disruptions.

The concept of "antifragility", as the antonym of fragility, represents a solution to the challenge described above. A system that loses its function or is restricted in its functionality above a certain threshold value under the influence of stressors and volatility is called fragile. In contrast, antifragile systems benefit from volatility, randomness and stressors. The phenomenon of antifragility is widespread in biology and in nature. For example, our muscular system grows as a result of increased stress. Our immune system is strengthened by exposing it to stressors such as vaccination. Biological evolution benefits from randomness in the form of mutations and from stressors through natural selection.

Artificial Intelligence as a Transmitter

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) opens up the possibility of transferring mechanisms from nature to technical systems. Within the framework of an ERS project funding, the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of the RWTH Aachen University, the Chair of Biotechnology and the Chair of Theory of Science and Technology of the RWTH Aachen University have been researching since June 2020 how the principles of antifragility can be made useful for production using AI methods.

„While uncertainties and volatility endanger the stability of production systems, the concept of antifragility makes it possible for the first time to investigate how these systems can improve by exploiting even more volatility and uncertainties”,

says Dr. Daniel Trauth, head of the Digital Transformation Department at the WZL.

Therefore, the aim of the project is to develop an implementation concept for an anti-fragility management for technical systems. The implementation concept will then be realized in an interdisciplinary follow-up project based on selected use cases.

Companies that are interested in antifragility in technical systems are welcome to contact Dr. Daniel Trauth to discuss the topic or to participate in relevant research projects.