The complexity of products created in distributed environments often requires close collaborations among a number of design and production partners. Since the early 1990s, many researchers have applied the agent technology in product design, manufacturing, process control and other production activities, at either the shop-floor level or the distributed level.
The authors of the present paper describe a distributed system for new product development, which consists of a managing agent (MA) and five functional agents, such as the manufacturability evaluation agent (MEA), resource agent (RA), process-planning agent (PPA), scheduling agent (SA), and fault diagnosis agent (FDA).
An agent is a software program that performs a user-delegated task. Each agent represents a domain expert and it can be installed in an individual computer. All the agents could be dispersed in geographically different regions and communicate with one another through the Internet. With each functional agent having specific functionality, the MA is the center of the intelligent system. It assists the work of other agents and enables them to collaborate closely with one another. With such a system in place, a product life cycle can be optimized from product design to final manufacturing as all the procedures are considered comprehensively and integrally, and each procedure is performed in a way as to ease and expedite the work of other agents. An agent language, which includes many specifically defined performatives, is defined. Each agent can perform its task intelligently by interpreting the commands (performatives) from other agents.
Source: Jia, H.Z., Ong ,S.K., Fuh, J.Y.H., Zhang, Y.F., and Nee A.Y.C. (2004) ‘An adaptive and upgradable agent-based system for coordinated product development and manufacture’, Robotics and Computer Integrated Manufacturing, 20(2), pp. 79 –90.