Negotiating Agents for Supply Chain Management

Ye Chen, Yun Peng, Tim Finin, Yannis Labrou, and Scott Cost

A supply chain is a network of suppliers, factories, warehouses, distribution centers and retailers, through which raw materials are acquired, transformed, produced and delivered to the customer. A supply chain management system (SCMS) manages the cooperation of these system components. In the computational world, roles of individual entities in a supply chain can be implemented as distinct agents. The functions and procedures of a company in the real market are complicated and include information collection, policy making and actions. Therefor, it is impossible to describe software agent behaviors for an uncertain e-commerce environment such as supply chain management in the traditional single threaded model. To solve the problem, we introduce the concept of negotiation into software agent design for supply chain management and present our ideas to solve the problem of communication and decision-making for negotiating agents. When the software agents enter into the market, a SCMS is thereby transformed into a multi-agent system. Since software agents might belong to different companies and are selfinterested, a pure scheduling scheme can not help. In addition, software agents tend to cooperate in a relatively dynamic way. To address these problems, we propose a MAS framework of negotiating agents for supply chain management. In our framework, there is no preset relationship between agents. When an order comes, a virtual supply chain may emerge through negotiation processes. The components of the chain may change according to the extemal situation even after the order has been accepted.

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