Professor Yoram Koren

Professor Yoram Koren, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and a Distinguished University Professor emeritus of Manufacturing, is internationally credited with conceiving the reconfigurable manufacturing systems (RMS) paradigm in 1995. Professor Koren established the RMS scientific underpinnings, defined the RMS characteristics, and invented major RMS patents. He is also recognized for his groundbreaking obstacle-avoidance algorithms for autonomous mobile robots and AGVs, and for his original algorithms in flexible automation. Professor Koren is accredited with establishing, in the early 1980’s, computer numerical control (CNC) and adaptive control of machine tools as research fields and a worldwide educational discipline.

According to Google Scholar’s Author Profile, more than 19,000 papers have cited professor Koren’s work on reconfigurable manufacturing, robotics, and manufacturing automation (h-index 60). He holds 14 U.S. patents, and is the author of 300 papers and 4 original books.

Koren received a B.Sc (1965) and M.Sc (1968) in Electrical Engineering, and D.Sc (1971) in Mechanical Engineering from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. From 1980 to 1982, Koren was the Paul G. Goebel Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan. In 1986, Koren became a tenured professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, and from 1993 to 2014 he was the Paul G. Goebel Professor of Engineering.  In 2010 he was named the James J. Duderstadt Distinguished University Professor (DUP) of Manufacturing at the University of Michigan (see DUP Lecture).

Professor Koren is the founding director (in 1996) of the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMS), an ERC that was financially sponsored by the National Science Foundation and 25 industrial companies until 2012. The RMS Center was the first NSF-sponsored ERC in the U-M College of Engineering, which is recognized as a formal milestone in the College 150-year history.  RMS is a manufacturing system that is rapidly adaptable to markets by offering exactly the production resources needed… exactly when needed.   Therefore, RMS systems increase enterprise profitability, reduce waste, and  significantly contribute to sustainability.

Koren not only pioneered the creation of reconfigurable manufacturing and defined its core characteristics and principles (see Wikipedia article), but he also holds seven US patents on reconfiguration technologies – systems and machines. Koren’s inspirational leadership and passion for scholarly research in manufacturing, yet driven by an end-goal of plant implementation, have been recognized for its excellence among academic and industry folks alike.  During 11 years of sponsoring by the NSF and 25 companies (1996–2007) and additional 4 years of sponsorship solely by industry grants, the ERC-RMS Center received over $47 million in funding.  Under Prof. Koren’s leadership, seventy (70) Ph.D. students and 270 M.S. students were graduated with the ERC-RMS financial support.

Tools developed at the ERC-RMS, using Professor Koren’s patents, designs and principles, have made their way to factory floors. The world’s-first full-scale Reconfigurable Machine Tool, which is based on Koren’s patent and conceptual design, was introduced by the ERC-RMS in 2002. The Center has held three Reconfigurable Manufacturing Conferences with participants from 40 countries. For the benefit of society the ERC-RMS conducted numerous outreach activities, including building museum exhibitions and spearheading programs to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in the field.

Some of Koren’s earlier accomplishments include the 1973 development of the world-first computerized real-time adaptive controller for a milling machine, long before computers were commonly used in industrial applications, as well as the 1993 development of a mechanical snake-robot whose movement was remarkably true to life. In the late 1980’s he developed the mobile robotics lab at UM, and invented real-time obstacle avoidance algorithms for fast, autonomous mobile robots.  Professor Koren was interviewed about his autonomous mobile robot invention on CNN national news.

Professor Koren has won numerous prestigious awards, including the Merchant Medal of ASME & SME, the Society of Manufacturing Engineering Gold Medal, the William T. Ennor Manufacturing Technology Award, and the Hanasufa Outstanding Investigator Award and Cup in Flexible Automation. In 1995 he received the UM College of Engineering (CoE) Excellence in Research Award, and in 2008 he received the Attwood Award (the highest prestigious award in the UM CoE).  In 2007 he was the first holder of the Edmond J. Safra Distinguished Visiting Professor Chair at the Technion (Haifa, Israel). Koren is a Fellow of CIRP, a Fellow of SME, a Fellow of ASME, and a Fellow of IEEE.

Selected Publications

  1. The Vector Field Histogram – Fast Obstacle Avoidance Mobile Robots (IEEE Trans. Journal of Robotics and Automation, Vol. 7, no. 3, pp.278-288, 1991). 2,100 citations per Google Scholar
  2. Reconfigurable manufacturing systems (CIRP Annals, Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 6-12, 1999). 1,500 citations 
  3. Cross-coupled biaxial computer control for manufacturing systems (ASME Trans., J. Meas. Dyn. & Control, Vol. 102, No. 4, pp. 265-272, 1980). 800 citations
  4. Computer control of manufacturing systems (Book, McGraw Hill, 1983). 570 citations.
  5. Realtime curve interpolators (J. on Computer-Aided Design, Vol. 26, No. 11, 1994). 350 Citations.