Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering, Chaoyang University of Technology, Taichung, Taiwan
Due to diversified and frequently changing demands from customers, technological advances and global competition, manufacturers rely on collaboration with their business partners to share costs, risks and expertise. How to take advantage of advancement of technologies to effectively support operations and create competitive advantage is critical for manufacturers to survive. To respond to these challenges, development of a dynamic scheme to better manage collaborative workflows is urgent. In this paper, we will study how to develop a flexible and scalable framework to dynamically and coherently configure workflows that can meet order requirements based on multi-agent systems (MAS). Configuring and scheduling collaborative workflows is a challenging problem due to the computational complexity involved, distributed architecture and dependency among different partners’ workflows. To achieve flexibility and reduce the cost and time involved in configuration of a supply chain network, we propose an approach that combines MAS, contract net protocol, workflow models and automated transformation of the workflow models to dynamically formulate the scheduling problem. To attain scalability, we develop a solution algorithm to solve the optimization problem by a collaborative and distributed computation scheme. We implement a software system based on industrial standards, including FIPA and the Petri net workflow specification model. In addition, we also illustrate effectiveness and analyze scalability of our approach by examples. Our approach facilitates collaboration between partners and provides a scalable solution for the increasing size of supply chain networks.