Blackboard Agents for Mixed Initiative Management of Integrated Process-Planning/Production-Scheduling Solutions Across the Supply Chain

Date of Original Version



Working Paper

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Abstract or Description

As companies increasingly customize their products, move towards smaller lot production and experiment with more flexible customer/supplier arrangements, they increasingly require the ability to respond quickly, accurately and competitively to customer requests for bids on new products and efficiently work out supplier/subcontractor arrangements for these new products. This in turn requires the ability to rapidly convert standard-based product specifications into process plans and quickly integrate new orders with their process plans into existing production schedules across the supply chain. This paper describes IP3S, a blackboard-based agent for supporting integrated process planning/production scheduling across the supply chain. IP3S agents support concurrent development and dynamic revision of integrated process-planning/productionscheduling solutions across the supply chain, maintenance of multiple problem instances and solutions across the supply chain, flexible user-oriented decision making, declarative representation of control information, the use of a common representation for exchanging information, coordination with other planning/scheduling agents and information sources, and ease of integration with legacy systems. The IP3S agent has been customized for and validated in the context of a large and highly dynamicmachine shop at Raytheon’s Andover manufacturing facility. Empirical results show an average performance improvement of 23% in solution quality over a decoupled approach to building process-planning/production-scheduling solutions.