The Integrated Supply Chain Management Project
Enterprise Integration Laboratory
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto
4 Taddle Creek Road, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A4
tel: +1-416-978-6823; fax: +1-416-971-2479;
The supply chain of a manufacturing enterprise is a world-wide network of
suppliers, factories, warehouses, distribution
centres and retailers through which raw materials are acquired,
transformed and delivered to customers.
In order to optimize performance, supply chain functions must operate in a
coordinated manner. But the dynamics
of the enterprise and the market make this difficult: bank rates change overnignt, political situations change, materials do not arrive on time, production facilities fail,
workers are ill, customers change or cancel orders, etc. causing deviations
from plan. In some cases, these events
may be dealt with locally, i.e. they lie within the scope of a supply chain
function. In other cases, the problem can
not be "locally contained" and modifications across many functions are required.
Consequently, the supply chain
management system must coordinate the revision of plans/schedules across
supply chain functions. The agility
with which the supply chain is managed at the tactical and operational
levels in order to enable timely dissemina
tion of information, accurate coordination of decisions and management of
actions among people and systems, is
what will ultimately determine the efficient, coordinated achievement of enterprise goals.
Our research addresses coordination problems at the tactical and operational levels. It organizes the supply chain
as a network of cooperating, intelligent agents, each performing one or more supply chain functions, and each
coordinating their actions with other agents. Our focus is in supporting the construction of supply chain intelli
gent agent systems in a manner that guarantees that agents use the best communication, coordination and prob
lem solving mechanisms available with minimal programming effort on the
We achieve this
- by developing communication and coordination theories and methodologies allowing agents to coopera
tively manage change and cooperatively reason to solve problems,
- developing ontologies that semantically
unify agent communication,
- developing intelligent information infrastructures that keep agents consistently
aware of relevant information,
- developing constraint-based reasoning as the fundamental agent reasoning
- packaging the above theories into agent development tools that ensure
that agents are able to
reuse standardized coordination and reasoning mechanisms, relieving developers from the tedious process of
implementing agents from scratch.
All above technology is currently in place. The TOVE virtual enterprise provides the unified testbed used by the
agents we built for the major supply chain functions: Logistics, Transportation Management, Order Acquisition,
Resource Management, Scheduling and Dispatching. These agents rely on ontologies for activity, state, time,
resources, cost, quality and organization as a common vocabulary for communication and use the services of
Information Agents that automatically distribute information and manage information consistency and evolution.
We have developed a unified theory of constraint-based scheduling and used it to build the Scheduling and other
agents. Finally, theories of coordination as constraint relaxation have been developed and are being incorporated
We are now developing a Generic Agent Shell that will support agent construction in a more principled way, pro
viding several layers of reusable services and languages. They are concerned
Purpose built application programs can make use of this agent
architecture to enhance their problem solving and to improve their robustness through coordination with other
agent based applications. Pre-existing (legacy) application programs can also be incorporated with little adaption
and can experience similar benefits. This latter point is important because in many cases developing the entire
application afresh would be considered too expensive or too large a change away from proven technology.
- agent communication,
- specification of coordination mechanisms,
- services for conflict management
- services for information distribution,
- common sense reasoning - time, action, causality, etc.
- integration of legacy application programs.
We collaborate with Numetrix Limited, a major provider of supply chain products and with the Technical Uni
versity of Berlin. Numetrix is working closely with us in both requirements analysis and specification of agent
and architecture functionality. They will incorporate our ideas in their next generation of products. With the
Technical University of Berlin we work closely to design and develop the Generic Agent Shell architecture that
will support agent development.
For information about the management of the ISCM project,
click here (but access restrictions apply)
- Mark S. Fox - principal investigator
- Mihai Barbuceanu - project manager
- Mahmud Gani - Graduate Student
- Chris Beck - Graduate Student