On October 22, 2018, I gave my research talk Automating Scientific Research in Optimization in Stuttgart, Germany and visited the Institute of Industrial Automation and Software Engineering (IAS) at the University of Stuttgart, where I was hosted by the Deputy Head Dr.-Ing. Nasser Jazdi, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO), where I was hosted by Joachim Lentes, the leader of the Competence Team Digital Engineering.

The Institute of Industrial Automation and Software Engineering aims to bridge between industrial automation and software engineering. Its research is focused on improving the flexibility and reliability of automation systems and the engineering of cyber physical automation systems. They investigate aspects of software development, the reliability and learning capabilities of automotive systems as well as web and app technologies in automation environments. The IAS conducts projects with research institutes as well as industrial companies. Dr. Jazdi conducts research on software reliability in the context of IoT, learning ability for industrial automation, and artificial intelligence in industrial automation as well as digital twins. The IAS also has many very interesting research, demonstration, and student experiment platforms in the field of intelligent production.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering has the same abbreviation as our group, namely IAO. It works together with companies and the public-sector to develop strategies, business models, and solutions for digital transformation. For their partners, the IAO develops and implements solutions for human-machine interaction, innovation, and technology strategies, application of virtual and augmented reality (they have developed a very impressive cave), cognitive systems and artificial intelligence, as well as sustainable solutions for the mobility and cities of tomorrow. The overall goal of the institute is to improve the ways in which people, organizations and technology interact. Under the leadership of Mr. Lentes, the Competence Team Digital Engineering conducts research on new methods to make companies more competitive by utilizing fresh ideas and innovative IT. He likes to bridge between different company divisions, disciplines, and even between different companies to create industrial symbioses.

Dr. Jazdi and Mr. Lentes visited our university in May, and it was a pleasure to meet them again. I am thankful for their great hospitality and for the time they took to show me around and to discuss with me. I had the chance to get very interesting tours through both institutes and the university as well as the impressive Arena 2036, a platform where many smart manufacturing technologies are developed. My presentations were received well by both teams and we had nice discussions.

On October 19, 2018, I gave my research talk Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at the Information Systems & Business Administration chair of Prof. Dr. Franz Rothlauf at Faculty of Law, Management and Economics faculty of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU, Johannes Gutenberg Universität) in Mainz, Germany.

The main research aims of the chair of Information Systems & Business Administration concern simulation and optimization processes as well as E-Business and modelling. Its application aims deal with network planning and combinatorial optimization in varying areas of economics. They have, for instance, developed a very efficient Estimation of Distribution Algorithm (EDA) for bit-string based problems. The group collaborates with several industry partners, including HRS, Avinomics GmbH, BridgingIT GmbH, EnBW AG, t.e.a.m. AG, and McKinsey.

Several times I have attended Prof. Rothlauf's always interesting tutorials at the GECCO conferences and I can only recommend them. He is one of the corner stones of the Evolutionary Computation community. His books Design of Modern Heuristics: Principles and Application and Representations for Genetic and Evolutionary Algorithms belong to the standard canon of Evolutionary Computation literature. He also has published more than 90 technical papers in the context of planning and optimization, evolutionary computation, e-business, and software engineering, co-edited several conference proceedings and edited books.

Meeting this group and Prof. Rothlauf at the JGU was a very nice experience and I am thankful that the talk was visited well.

On October 18, 2018, I held my research talk Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at the Lehrstuhl für BWL und Industriebetriebslehre of Prof. Dr. Ronald Bogaschewsky of the Faculty of Business Management and Economics, Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) in Würzburg, Germany.

The chair conducts research in many fields of management and control of production, starting with E-Procurement and Industry 4.0 as well as the public provision of bio-based productions. It also investigates operational production theory and ecological operation,on multi-objective global supply chain design, supply chain and logistics management in general, production planning and control, process-oriented company leadership, social media, and knowledge management. The group is active for 18 years already in what is now known as Industry 4.0, where they contributed very significant works in E-Procurement.

While my previous station conducts research in a more technical fashion than my own team, the group of Prof. Bogaschewsky comes more from the management science side, but the intersections to our fields are the same. The planning of supply chains, for instance, is an optimization problem. The meeting was therefore very interesting and opened up new perspectives for me. I am also very thankful to the audience for their kind reception of my talk and the interesting discussion.

On October 17, 2018, I held my research talk Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at the Institute of Automation and Information Systems (AIS) of Prof. Dr.-Ing. Birgit Vogel-Heuser of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Munich, Germany.

Automation is a field in the intersection of mechanical, electrical, and software engineering, also using techniques from machine learning and operations research. The general goal is to increase the production efficiency and quality as well as reducing costs and the time to market. The AIS contributes to this goal with their work on the SFB 768 ("Managing Cycles in Innovation Processes – Integrated Development of Product-Service Systems Based on Technical Products"), which recently has received the third round of funding – a very rare achievement for such research projects. The research fields of the AIS include Human-Machine Interaction, encompassing data integration and processing to support the human, Model-based Engineering, including variant-rich, interdisciplinary manufacturing systems, Intelligent Production Systems, especially reconfigurable, distributed cyber-physical production systems, and Big Data in Automated Production Systems, where methods for aggregating, analyzing and preparing Big Data are researched. The AIS has quite a lot of impressive hardware systems, from functional models of manufacturing systems to real machines which are used as basis for research projects.

The research direction Optimized Management, Planning, and Operations Research of our own group has a lot in common with the intelligent production area of the AIS, but we come more from the software, optimization, and theoretical side, whereas the AIS comes from the actual application direction, which is often explored directly on actual machines. Visiting the AIS and presenting here was therefore quite interesting. The interesting discussions with the AIS researchers before and after may talk, as well as the tour through the institute, were a pleasure as well. I was also happy to meet Prof. Vogel-Heuser again, after almost ten years since my time at the University of Kassel, where she was a member of my PhD defense committee.

On October 16, 2018, I held my research talk Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at Swarm Intelligence and Complex Systems Group of Prof. Dr. Martin Middendorf at the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany.

The group is focused on the field of complex systems which they tackle with swarm intelligence, bio-inspired computation and optimization, and organic computing. They also tackle issues in phylogeny and reconfigurable architectures for parallel computing. One of the many contributions of this group is a large set of open source software systems, for phylogenesis, RNA and mitochondrial genome analysis using optimization algorithms. I know Prof. Middendorf for more than seven years personally and have deep respect for his work: His Population-based Ant Colony Optimization algorithm is the best (non-hybrid) metaheuristic approach that I know for the Traveling Salesman Problem and also a component of the best hybrid approach in all the experiments I have conducted with our TSP Suite in, e.g., our 2014 study. Its derivatives also performed very well in our recent study. Furthermore, researchers affiliated with the group recently won the world championship in the RoboCup tournament, which is a very outstanding achievement.

I met Prof. Middendorf several times in China before and know him since 2011. In 2017, I visited his group for the first time and it was a very nice experience. Visiting him and his team again made me quite happy and my talk was received well, too, and we had a very nice discussion afterwards. I want to thank Prof. Middendorf and his team for their hospitality.

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