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A heuristic for the selection of appropriate diagnostic tools in large-scale sugarcane supply systems

Department of Bioresources Engineering, School of Engineering, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, Republic of South Africa

Holistic diagnostic sugarcane supply chain studies are critical and have in the past identified several system-scale opportunities. Such studies are multidisciplinary and employ a range of methodologies. Most of these methodologies nonetheless, are only tailored to surface a few facets of problem complexity. A comprehensive view is therefore, more possible only through a combination of various methodological approaches. The large number of methodologies available, however, makes it difficult to choose the right method or a combination thereof. A heuristic for the selection of diagnostic tools in integrated sugarcane supply and processing systems (ISSPS) was therefore, developed in this research. Diagnostic criteria were developed through comprehensive literature review to serve as a foundation for tool comparison. The performance of various diagnostic tools on the criteria was thereafter determined. The performance matrix served as an input into the Technique for Order of Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution (TOPSIS) to prioritise and select preferred tool(s). Each tool’s suitability to diagnose any of the many ISSPS domains was further established. Causal loop diagrams, stock and flow diagrams, network approaches and fuzzy cognitive maps were the only tools in the heuristic that captured feedback. Rich pictures and current reality trees were the most accessible and interactive, respectively. All the tools in the heuristic could be applied across all the ISSPS domains except for fuzzy cognitive maps which should be applied with caution within the biophysical domain as these tools are explicitly subjective. Sensitivity analysis of the TOPSIS model indicated that SFDs were the most sensitive to criteria weights whilst network approaches were the least sensitive. It is recommended that the heuristic be demonstrated in an actual ISSPS. It is further recommended that the heuristic should be continuously updated with criteria and other diagnostic tools.
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Keywords complexity; criteria; diagnosis; multimethodology; sugarcane supply systems

Citation: Mduduzi Innocent Shongwe, Carel Nicolaas Bezuidenhout. A heuristic for the selection of appropriate diagnostic tools in large-scale sugarcane supply systems. AIMS Agriculture and Food, 2019, 4(1): 1-26. doi: 10.3934/agrfood.2019.1.1

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