An Emergent Approach to Systems of Physical Agents

H. Van Dyke Parunak

For the past ten years I have been involved in industrial research on applications of agent architectures to manufacturing, and am presently techical advisor to an industrial consortium that is fielding pilot tests of shop-floor agents. The specific problem addressed by most of our work is the management of material flow and resource utilization on the factory floor. Classically, these problems have been considered under the rubrics of "scheduling" and "shop-floor control," and have been addressed with top-down control that does not offer the robustness and agility required in modern competitive environments. Our approach has been to reify parts and equipment as agents, and seek architectures that permit the overall shop schedule to emerge dynamically from their interaction, rather than being imposed top-down.

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