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

David W. Hildum, Norman M. Sadeh, Thomas J. Laliberty, John McA'Nulty, Stephen F. Smith, Dag Kjenstad

As companies increasingly customize their products, move towards smaller lot production and experiment with more flexible customer/supplier arrangements, such as those made possible by Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), they increasingly require the ability to (1) respond quickly, accurately and competitively to customer requests for bids on new products and (2) efficiently work out supplier/subcontractor arrangements for these new products. This in turn requires the ability to (1) rapidly convert standard-based product specifications into process plans and (2) quickly integrate process plans for new orders into the existing production schedule to best accommodate the current state of the manufacturing enterprise.

This paper describes IP3S, an Integrated Process Planning/Production Scheduling shell for agile manufacturing. IP3S utilized a blackboard architecture that supports (1) concurrent development and dynamic revision of integrated process planning/production scheduling solutions, (2) maintenance of multiple problem instances and solutions, (3) flexible user-oriented decision making, (4) declarative representation of control information, (5) the use of a common representation for exchanging information, (6) coordination with outside information sources and (7) portability and ease of integration with legacy systems. IP3S is currently undergoing evaluation in a large and highly dynamic machine shop at Raytheon’s Andover manufacturing facility.

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