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Journal of Advanced Mechanical Design,

Systems, and
Manufacturing

Vol. 2, No. 4, 2008

Integrated Dynamic Process Planning and


Scheduling in Flexible Manufacturing Systems
via Autonomous Agents*
Hossein TEHRANI NIK NEJAD**, Nobuhiro SUGIMURA**,
Koji IWAMURA** and Yoshitaka TANIMIZU**
**Japan Society of Mechanical Engineering
Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka Prefecture University
1-1 Gakuen-cho, Nakaku, Sakai, Osaka, 599-8531, Japan
Email: m08thrni@me.osakafu-u.ac.jp

Abstract
Process planning and scheduling are important manufacturing planning activities
which deal with resource utilization and time span of manufacturing operations.
The process plans and the schedules generated in the planning phase shall be
modified in the execution phase due to the disturbances in the manufacturing
systems. This paper deals with a multi-agent architecture of an integrated and
dynamic system for process planning and scheduling for multi jobs. A negotiation
protocol is discussed, in this paper, to generate the process plans and the schedules
of the manufacturing resources and the individual jobs, dynamically and
incrementally, based on the alternative manufacturing processes. The alternative
manufacturing processes are presented by the process plan networks discussed in
the previous paper, and the suitable process plans and schedules are searched and
generated to cope with both the dynamic status and the disturbances of the
manufacturing systems. We initiatively combine the heuristic search algorithms of
the process plan networks with the negotiation protocols, in order to generate
suitable process plans and schedules in the dynamic manufacturing environment. A
simulation software has been developed to carry out case studies, aimed at
verifying the performance of the proposed multi-agent architecture.
Key words: Multi Agent System, Integrated Process Planning and Scheduling, Real
Time Scheduling, Flexible Manufacturing System, Petri Nets.

1. Introduction

*Received 21 Mar., 2008 (No. 08-0210)


[DOI: 10.1299/jamdsm.2.719]

Process planning and scheduling are important manufacturing planning activities which
deal with resource utilization and time span of manufacturing operations. In order to cope
with competitiveness and globalization of todays business environment, supply chains
become more complex, and manufacturing processes have become more advance, however
products have to be manufactured in higher varieties and smaller batches. It is essential to
establish effective and efficient process plans and production schedules to cope with the
highly dynamic manufacturing requirements. Some automobile manufacturers are gradually
adopting their production ways to support the diversity of the customer needs and increase
the changing speed for the developing the new products (1).
The process planning and scheduling tasks are very complicated and time consuming, if
it is applied to the dynamically changing FMSs (Flexible Manufacturing Systems). To
facilitate the dynamic and adaptable manufacturing activities in the FMS, a new
methodology with appropriate architecture is needed to handle the process planning tasks,

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in order to cope with dynamic changes of the products and the manufacturing processes in
the FMSs.
The multi-agent approaches are becoming increasingly important for the FMSs to
increase the productivity and the profitability through the greater shop floor agility and
flexibility (2). The multi-agent systems provide us a systematic way to deal with the dynamic
changes of the products and the manufacturing processes in the FMSs.
This research applies a multi-agent architecture to a real time integrated process
planning and scheduling system in the FMSs, which generate suitable process plans and
schedules based on the status of the FMSs. The objective of the paper is to develop a
multi-agent architecture for the process planning and scheduling of multi jobs that rapidly
adopt the process plans and schedules to cope with the job changes and the unexpected
disturbances in the FMSs. A process plan network and a heuristic search algorithm are
proposed to generate suitable process plans and schedules real-timely.

2. Literature review
In recent years, Multi-Agent Systems (MAS) have been widely applied in
manufacturing applications because of its flexibility, re-configurability, and scalability (3-5).
Gu et al. (3) proposed a multi-agent system where process routes and schedules of a part are
accomplished through the contract net bids. The system addresses some practical issues for
merging the CAPP with shopfloor scheduling such as the parts feature representation and
operation specification. The task allocation and process alternative selection are achieved
through the hierarchical bidding processes between machine agents and shop floor manager,
between upper level machine agents and lower level machine agents, and between machine
agents and tool agents, etc. A cascading auction protocol (6) was proposed as a framework
for integrating process planning and heterarchical shop floor control. The integration of the
real-time online process planning (alleviating the selection of routing alternatives, resource
alternatives, detail process planning, etc.), and shop floor control (resource allocation,
scheduling, transportation, tooling, and fixturing) is accomplished progressively through a
recursive auction process carried out in parallel among part management agent and multiple
resource management agents.
IDCPPS (7) is an integrated, distributed and cooperative process planning system. The
process-planning tasks are separated into three levels, namely, initial planning,
decision-making, and detail planning. The results of these three steps are general process
plans, a ranked list of near-optimal alternative plans and the final detailed linear process
plans, respectively. The integration with scheduling is considered at each stage with process
planning. Wang and Shen (8) presented a new Distributed Process Planning (DPP)
methodology by integrating machining feature-based planning, function block-based
control, and agent-based distributed decision making. It proposes to use two-level
decision-making supervisory planning and operation planning. The supervisory planning
focuses on product data analysis, machine selection, and machining sequence planning, and
the operation planning considers the detailed working steps of the machining operations
inside each process plan and is accomplished by intelligent NC controllers. Lim and Zhang
(9)
have developed an agent-based integrated dynamic process planning and scheduling
system to increase the responsiveness of the manufacturing systems. This system does not
only effectively integrate the dynamic process planning and scheduling, but also optimizes
the machine utilization and provides a platform to assess the reconfiguration of the
manufacturing systems.
Sugimura et al. (10) proposed a basic architecture for integrated process planning and
scheduling from the view points of the distributed decision making.

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Machining Center

Preparation Stations

Turning Center
Figure 1. Configuration of the target manufacturing system
A systematic approach was proposed to select suitable combination of the process plans and
to generate suitable production schedules for all the jobs by applying the genetic algorithm
and the dispatching rules. Wong et al. (11) proposed an agent-based approach for the dynamic
integration of the process planning and scheduling functions. In consideration of the
alternative processes and alternative machines for the production of the parts, the actual
selection of the schedule and the allocation of the manufacturing resources is achieved
through the negotiation among the part and machine agents which represent the parts and
the manufacturing resources, respectively.
The multi-agent architecture has been widely applied to the process planning and the
scheduling, as discussed in (12). The methods proposed in the literatures deal mainly with the
process planning and scheduling tasks in the static environment in which the jobs
specifications and the manufacturing system status are stable. However, it is now required
to develop an integrated process planning and scheduling systems applicable to the dynamic
environment in which some unforeseen disturbances may occur. The objective of the
research is to propose a multi-agent based integrated system for process planning and
scheduling in the dynamic environment, in order to cope with the jobs specification changes
and the unforeseen disruptions, such as the malfunction of the machine tools. The following
issues are discussed in the paper.
(1) Target flexible manufacturing systems.
(2) Multi-agent system for dynamic process planning.
(3) Flexibility and robustness of the proposed architecture.
(4) Synchronization
(5) Simulation software and experimental results.

3. Target Flexible Manufacturing System


The basic configuration of the target FMSs are shown in Fig. 1. The manufacturing
systems consist of a set of machine tools, preparation stations, input and output buffers,
AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles), fixtures and cutting tools. The input jobs are
transformed by a process plan to the finished products through the manufacturing processes
including machining, transportation, and fixturing processes. The inputted jobs are firstly
fixed on the fixtures at the preparation stations and transmitted to the input buffers by the
AGVs. The jobs are then transported to the machine tools in order to carry out the
machining processes required. If the refixturing is required to change the positions and
orientations of the jobs against the fixtures, the jobs are transported to the preparation
stations and the re-fixturing process is carried out at the preparation stations. When all the
required machining processes of the jobs are finished, the finished jobs are transported to
the preparation stations to separate the jobs from the fixtures, and the jobs are transmitted to
the output buffers.

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Figure 2. UML Class diagram of physical agents and their relations.

4. Multi Agent Architecture


A multi-agent architecture is proposed to carry out the integrated process planning and
scheduling. The agent system incrementally generates suitable process plans and production
schedules based on the dynamic status of the FMSs. In the following sections, the system
architectures proposed here are discussed from the viewpoints of the agent definitions and
the negotiation protocols among the agents.
4.1 Agents Definition
Two types of agents are considered in this research to develop the process planning and
scheduling systems. They are, physical agents and information agents. The physical agents
represent jobs, the manufacturing resources and the machining processes in the FMSs. The
manufacturing resources considered here are the machine tools, the preparation stations, the
AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles), the fixtures and the cutting tools. The information
agents are virtual agents which are responsible for governing the negotiation protocol and
decision-making.
4.1.1 Physical agents
The UML class diagram of the physical agents is summarized in Fig. 2. The contents of
the physical agents are summarized in the following.
Job agents
The job agents represent the jobs to be manufactured in the FMSs. The role of the job
agents in the process planning is to certify the correct machining processes of the jobs. The
job agents include the following information to describe the orders and the machining
features.
(1) Job information:
The job information section describes the order information, the locations and the
progresses of the machining processes of the jobs.
(2) Machining features
The machining feature section gives the machining features of the jobs and their
technical data such as the types, the tolerances and the roughness. These technical data
are required to select appropriate machining processes.
(3) Process plan networks
The process plan networks represent the generated process plans in non-linear and
hierarchical ways. It includes all the alternative process plans that satisfy the

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technological requirements of the jobs.


(4) Job Status
We consider the following status for the job agents.
Idle: The job agent is idle and waiting for the next machining operations.
Machining operation: The job agent is under machining processes on the machine
tools.
Transportation and re-fixturing: The job agent is transported and/or re-fixtured for
its next machining operations.
Machine tool agents
The machine tool agents represent the machine tools. The agents representing such
resources as the preparation stations and the AGV are not considered, at present, since only
the machining processes are discussed in the present research. The machine tool agents are
responsible for generating proposals to the machining processes required from the job
agents. The proposals include the machining time, the transportation time and the
re-fixturing time needed to carry out the required machining processes of the job agents.
The machine tool agents include the following information to represent the machine tools in
the FMSs.
(1) Machine tool information
The machine tool section specifies the shape generation functions, which are represented
by the cutting motions, the spindle directions, the feed motions and the maximum
product size.
(2) Machine tool status
We consider the following status for the machine tool agents in the simulation
Idle: The machine tool is idle and negotiating with job agents for next machining
operation
Machining operation: The machine tool is machining the job agent
Breakdown: The machine tool has been broken and is under recovery process
(3) Cutting tool
The characteristics of the cutting tools are described in the cutting tool section, which
includes the information about the cutting tool types, the tool sizes and the cutting edge
types.
(4) Fixture
The fixture section describes the fixture types, and the positions of the fixtures against
the spindle axis.
Machining process agents
The machining process agents represent the machining processes of machining features
of the jobs, which are carried out by the machine tools. The agents include the following
information.
(1) Machining process ID which is the combination of the ID of the machine tools, the ID
of the fixtures and the ID of the cutting tools.
(2) Machining process types and machining features types, which can be generated by the
machining processes
(3) Surface roughness, tolerances and material removal rate of the machining processes.
(4) Machining process status
The status represents the dynamic status of the machining processes in the FMSs. The
machining process agents have two statuses.
inactive: if one of the machine tool, the cutting tool and the fixture related to the
machining process are broken-down
active: otherwise

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Figure 3. Communication with other agents


4.1.2 Information agents
The information agents are virtual agents for governing the negotiation protocol and
decision-making.
Production engineering agents
The production engineering agents generate the job agents, the machine tool agents, and
the machining process agents to specify the geometric and technological information of the
jobs, the machine tools and the machining processes of the FMSs. The agents play a key
role for initializing the information of the physical agents.
Job order agents
The job order agents represent the manufacturing tasks. They are information agents,
which carry out the negotiation processes between the job agents and the machine tool
agents to generate suitable process plans. The agents have crucial influence on the system
performance by deploying efficient decision-making mechanism to select the appropriate
machine tools for the individual machining features of the jobs.
4.2 Negotiation Protocol
A negotiation protocol among the agents is required to coordinate the distributed
decisions of the individual agents for solving the complex problems in the process planning
and scheduling of the FMSs. The problems to be solved here are as follows.
(1) Selection of candidate machining processes for individual machining features.
(2) Selection of suitable combinations of the machine tools, the cutting tools and the
fixtures.
(3) Selection of suitable machining sequences of the machining features.
We apply the contract net protocols (13) which are widely used in the agent based
scheduling problems. In the protocol proposed here, the individual agents have three
types of boards named request boards , proposal boards and status boards
for the communication among the agents. Figure 3 shows the role of the boards. The
requests from the other agents are firstly sent to the request boards, and the agents scan and
receive the requests from the boards, every fixed time intervals named RTIP (reading time
interval period). The individual agents secondly generate the proposals to the requests, and
store them in the proposal boards. The statuses of the agents are changed and stored in the
status board, if necessary.
The communications between the boards and the other agents are controlled by a
communication system, which is common to all the agents. The agents communicate with
each other through the messages. The general format of the messages and their attributes is
summarized in the Table 1. The symbol in the table means the characters representing
the contents of the messages. Figure 4 summarizes the negotiation protocol proposed here
to generate suitable process plans and schedules by the distributed decision-makings of the
individual agents and the negotiations among the agents. The negotiation processes are
carried out through the following steps.

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Table 1. General format for messages


Attribute
Z
V
N
T
C
S
R
P
F
X
E

Size
( Character)
1
5
5
2
2
2
2
2
2
5
5

Production
Engineering
Agent

Job
Agents

Description
Message Status
Valid time window for message
Message unique ID
Message type
Current position of requester
Sender ID
Receiver ID
Machining process ID
Machining feature IDs
Manufacturing time of next operation
Estimation of completion time

Job
Order
Agents

Machine
Tool
Agents

Machining
Process
Agent

Step 1: Initialization
Step 2: Request for available machining processes
Remaining Machining Features
Available Machining Processes

Step 3: Requests generation by the job order agent


Nodes of Process
Plan Networks

Send Requests

Step 4: Proposal preparation by the machine tool agent


Request for calculating minimum
estimation of completion time
Calculated minimum estimation
of completion time

Send Proposals

Step 5: Selection the appropriate proposal


Jobs Schedule
Machine Tools
Schedule

Step 6: Preparation for next operation


Messages for expansion of the
next level of the process plan network

Figure 4. Negotiation protocol among agents


Step 1: Initialization
The production engineering agents firstly generate all the job agents, the machine tool
agents and the machining process agents to initialize the status of the target FMSs. They
also define the machining features, which can be generated simultaneously by the same
combinations of the machine tools, the cutting tools and the fixtures, and assign them to the
job agents.
Step 2: Requests for available machining processes
The job agents select a set of the machining features, which can be machined in the
next machining process, based on the precedence constraints among the machining features.
For example, let us consider a case shown in Fig. 5. This part consists of three machining
features (see Fig. 5(b)). They are, one slot MF1, and two holes MF2 and MF3. The
precedence constraints for this example is shown in Fig. 5(c). In the first step, the
machining features MF1 and MF3 are sent to the machining process agents, and they select
a set of available alternative machining processes for the individual machining features,
based on the specifications of the machining features, such as the geometries, the sizes, the
surface roughness, and the tolerances as shown in the Table 2.

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MF1
MF3

MF2

MF1

(a) part geometry

(b) machining features

MF2

(c) precedence constraints

Figure 5. An example of parts


Table 2. Alternative machining processes for machining features MF1 and MF3
Machining
Machining
Machine
Fixture
Cutting
Features
Process ID
Tool ID
ID
Tool ID
MF1
mp1
mt1
fi1
ct1
MF1
mp4
mt2
fi2
ct1
MF3
mp3
mt1
fi2
ct2
MF3
mp6
mt2
fi1
ct2
mt1 : Vertical machining center , mt2 : Horizontal machining center
ct1 : End Milling , ct2 : Drill
RMF = Remaining machining features set
AMF = Available machining features set for the next operation
MT = Manufacturing time
ECT = Estimation of minimum completion time
N1
mp1=(mt1, fi1,ct1) -> MF1
RMF = {MF2,MF3}
AMF= {MF2,MF3}
MT = 738
ECT = 2070

N0
RMF = {MF1,MF2,MF3}
AMF= {MF1,MF3}

N2
mp3=(mt1, fi2,ct2) -> MF3
RMF = {MF1,MF2}
AMF= {MF1}
MT = 1397
ECT = 2227
N3
mp4=(mt2, fi2,ct1) -> MF1
RMF = {MF2,MF3}
AMF= {MF2,MF3}
MT = 685
ECT = 2525
N4
mp6=(mt2, fi1,ct2) -> MF3
RMF = {MF1,MF2}
AMF= {MF1}
MT = 1312
ECT = 2440
First Level

N5
mp2=(mt1, fi1,ct2) -> MF2
RMF = {MF3}
AMF= {MF3}
MT = 435
N6
mp3=(mt1, fi2,ct2) -> MF3
RMF = {MF2}
AMF= {MF2}
MT = 897

N9
mp3=(mt1, fi2,ct2) -> MF3
RMF = {}
AMF = {}
MT = 897
N10
mp6=(mt2, fi1,ct2) -> MF3
RMF = {}
AMF = {}
MT = 1531

N7
mp5=(mt2, fi2,ct2) -> MF2
RMF = {MF3}
AMF= {MF3}
MT = 943

End

N8
mp6=(mt2, fi1,ct2) -> MF3
RMF = {MF2}
AMF= {MF2}
MT = 1341

Second Level

Third Level

Figure 6. Process plan network.


The selected machining processes include the information about the machine tools, the
cutting tools and the fixtures. The selected machining processes for the individual
machining features are sent back to the job agents.
The job agents generate a set of groups of the machining features, which can be
machined by the same combinations of the machine tools, the cutting tools and the fixtures.
This means that the grouped machining features are machined by one machining process
concurrently, and the job agents generate the nodes representing all the grouped machining
features in the process plan networks as shown in the first level nodes N 1 to N 4 in Fig.6.
The contents of the process plan networks are described in the previous paper (14). The
individual nodes in the process plan networks represent a set of the machining features
which could be machined by one machining process. An algorithm also generates nodes

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Table 3. Generated requests by job order agents


Process plan network nodes
N1
N2
N3
N4

Generated requests by job order agents


Z1V01000N00001T01C00S01R01P01F01
Z1V01000N00002T01C00S01R01P03F03
Z1V01000N00003T01C00S01R02P04F01
Z1V01000N00004T01C00S01R02P06F03

representing the machining sequences of the machining features based on the precedence
constraints. The information of the generated nodes is sent to the job order agents for the
negotiations.
Step 3: Request generation by job order agents
The job order agents create requests for the machining process execution for the
individual nodes of the process plan networks, which are the groups of the machining
features that can be generated by same machine tools. The generated requests are sent to the
request boards of the corresponding machine tool agents. The content of request includes
the machining features and selected machine tool, cutting tool and fixture. As you can see in
Fig. 6, there are four nodes N 1 to N 4 in the first level of the process plan network. For
each of them, the requests shown in the Table 3 are generated according to the message
format in Table 1, and sent to the related machine tools MT1 and MT2.
Step 4: Proposal preparation by machine tool agents
The machine tool agents read all the requests from the request boards every RTIP
(Reading Time Interval Period). The machine tool agents analyze the request messages, and
generate appropriate proposals to all the requests. In this paper, we consider a heuristic
algorithm to estimate minimum completion time for generating appropriate proposal for
each request by the machine tool agents, as shown in the followings.
Minimum completion time
The machine tool agents need to estimate the completion time of the remaining
machining features of the job agents. A procedure is developed and given to the job
agents to estimate the minimal completion time of the remaining machining features,
based on the process plan networks shown in Fig. 6. When a machine tool agent
requires a job agent to estimate the minimum completion time, the job agent starts the
procedures from the start node which is specified by the machine tool agent, and repeat
to generate and to select suitable successive nodes with the minimum machining time.
When all the machining features are included in the process plan networks, the job
agent find both the machining sequences of the machining features and the estimated
minimal completion time. Consider a case where we are at node N i of the process
plan network and we are going to estimate the manufacturing time from the node N i
to the end node. The algorithm for calculating the estimated minimum completion time
from node N i to the end node is summarized in the followings.
Initialization:
Set RMF and AMF. The RMF is the set of the remaining machining features. The
AMF is the set of the available machining features that do not have any preceding
machining features and could be done firstly considering the precedence
constraints among the nodes of the process plan networks.( AMF RMF ).
Put the node N i in ECTS set. The ECTS is the set of the nodes in the path from
node the N i to the end of the process plan network, which has the minimum
manufacturing time.

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Table 4. Generated proposals by machine tool agents


Received requests

Generated proposals by machine tool agents

Z1V01000N00001T01C00S01R01P01F01

Z1V01080N00005T02C00S01R01P01F01X738E2070

Z1V01000N00002T01C00S01R01P03F03

Z1V01080N00006T02C00S01R01P03F03X1397E2227

Z1V01000N00003T01C00S01R02P04F01

Z1V01080N00007T02C00S02R01P04F01X685E2525

Z1V01000N00004T01C00S01R02P06F03

Z1V01080N00008T02C00S02R01P06F03X1312E2440

Set a initial node N i . In the N i , RMF = {set remaining machining features},


AMF= {set of machining features without any successors}.

(1) Generate a set of successor nodes SN = { N j j = 1,2,... SN } of the node N i for all
feasible machining processes mpr = (mti , fx f , ctt ), r = 1,..., R , ( R = total number of
available machining processes) by applying the following algorithm.
Cluster all features of the AMF set of the node N i that could be machined with
the machining process mp r ,
Generate a new node N j representing a set of machining features which can be
machined by the machining process mp r and put it in the SN set. The links to
the nodes N j , which are successor nodes, are stored in the node N i for further
processing,
Estimate the manufacturing time for node N j that includes the time of the
machining, the transportation and the re-fixturing processes,
Update the RMF and AMF sets for the node N j ,
(2) Select a successor node N k from the SN set which has the minimum machining time
for the next step of extension, and move it to the ECTS set.
(3) If RMF set of N k is not empty consider node N k as node N i and go to (1).
(4) If RMF set of N k is empty, it means that we are in the end of the process plan network.
The sum of the manufacturing time for the nodes in ECTS set is the estimation of the
minimum completion time from node N i to the end.
Let us consider a case where we are going to calculate the estimation of minimum
completion time for node N1 at the process plan network shown in Fig 6. We start with
node N1 , and there are four successor nodes N 5 , N 6 , N 7 , N 8 from the node N1 as
shown in Fig. 6. We select the node N 5 which has the minimum manufacturing time, and
we put it in the ECTS set. We expand the node N 5 at the next stage of the algorithm and
there are two successor nodes N 9 , N 10 . The node N 9 is selected and which has the
minimum manufacturing time, we put it in the ECTS set. As you can see in Fig. 6, for the
node N 9 the RMF set is empty and the algorithm stops. It is because that there are no
remaining machining features in the node N 9 . The sum of the manufacturing time for the
nodes in ECTS set is the estimation of the completion time from node N1 until end.
Following this, the job agent returns the estimated completion time to the machine tool
agent. As you can see in the Fig. 6, the estimation of completion time for all nodes N1 ,
N 2 , N 3 , N 4 are calculated and these values are returned to the machine tool agent. This
procedure can estimate the completion time of all the remaining machining features,
however it requires the additional communications between the machine tool agents and the
job agents.
The machine tool agents generate proposals for each request as shown in Table 4, based
on the minimal completion time of the remaining machining features and send them back to
the related job order agents.

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Figure 7: Synchronizing the agents for generating requests and proposals.


Step 5: Selection of appropriate proposal by job order agents
The job order agents scan all the received proposals from the machine tool agents every
RTIP, and select an appropriate proposal based on the either the minimum manufacturing
time or the estimated minimum completion time. The job agent selects the node N 3
according to the minimum manufacturing time, or the node N1 according to the estimated
minimum completion time. The job order agents inform both the job agents and the
machine tool agents that the machining features sent from the job agents shall be machined
by the machine tools of the selected node. This means that the job order agents dynamically
generate the process plans and the production schedules of the job agents and the machine
tool agents.
The job agents and the machine tool agents selected here carry out the requested
machining processes in the next step. Therefore, the statuses of these agents are changed,
and the status data are stored in the status boards. All the agents monitor the status data if
necessary.
Step 6: Preparation for next operation
When the machine tool agents complete the machining operations of the job agents, the
job agents modify their process plan networks. That is, the job agents delete the
corresponding nodes representing the group of the machining features which was completed
by the machine tool agents. New nodes of the process plan networks are generated to
specify the groups of the machining features to be machined in the next step. The
procedures presented in Steps 2 to 6 are repeated until the job agents do not have any
remaining machining features.
4.3 Synchronization
The Petri nets (15) are used, in the research, for synchronizing the messages and the
negotiation protocols between the different agents. This Petri nets control both the sequence
and the timing of the interaction and the messages between the agents. Each Petri net
represents one agent or interacting agents. Fig. 7 shows an example of the interaction
between the agents for generating and sending the requests to the request board of the
machine tool agents and generating the proposals by the machine tool agents. These Petri
nets are linked with each other with global transition (See transitions, t2 , t4 , t8 ,t14,t17 in Fig. 7).

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Figure 8. Simulation system

5. Flexibility and robustness


The flexibility and the robustness of the proposed method are discussed from the
viewpoints of the response to the unforeseen changes of the jobs and the machining
processes. The job agents utilize the process plan networks representing all candidate
machining process routes of the jobs, and generate suitable process plans incrementally,
referring to the status of the machine tools. Therefore, any pre-defined process plans are not
required, and the process plans are dynamically generated from the candidate machining
process routes specified in the process plan networks. The proposed architecture increases
the flexibility and the robustness of the FMSs.
The proposed architecture also supports the modifications of the jobs and the machine
tools. The production engineering agents may modify the geometric and the technological
specifications of the jobs to be machined. In this case, the content of the job agents are
modified, in particular, the contents of the machining features are modified to represent the
new specifications. In some cases, it is possible to realize the job specification changes
during the manufacturing processes of the jobs. For the cases where some machine tools are
added and/or removed, the contents of the machine tool agents and the machining process
agents are added and/or removed from the agent systems. If some machine tools are broken
down, the corresponding machining processes become inactive, and the contents of the
machining process agents are modified.

6. Simulation and case study


A prototype of the agent based integrated process planning and scheduling system have
been developed for the case studies, as shown in Fig. 8. The system developed here is able
to simulate the distributed decision-makings of the agents, and the negotiation among the
agents, and to generate suitable process plans and a schedule for a set of inputted jobs.
Some case studies have been carried out to verify the applicability of the proposed system
to the integrated process planning and scheduling problems in the FMSs. The FMS
considered here includes 7 machine tools and 50 different machining processes. Figure 9
shows the shapes of the job agents for the case studies. The detailed information of the
machining features and the machining resources of the case studies are brought in the
previous paper (14). The RTIP in the simulation is set to be 2 sec. for the machine tool agents

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Journal of Advanced Mechanical Design,


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Vol. 2, No. 4, 2008

MF5,MF9,MF11

MF20

MF14 MF17

MF14

MF11,MF25,MF30

MF10

MF18

MF26

MF27

MF24

MF1

MF9

MF18
MF22

MF28
MF16
MF21

MF19

MF13

MF8

MF2

MF29
MF15

MF3,MF8,MF10

MF12
MF15

MF23

MF31
MF2

(a)
MF14

MF1,MF2

MF7,MF11

MF1

MF22

MF17,MF23MF32

(b)
MF14

MF6,MF10
MF5,MF9

MF2MF6MF21
MF13

MF7MF10MF20

MF13

MF4

MF8,MF12

MF8

MF15

MF5
MF9

MF15
MF18
MF16,MF20

MF3
MF12

MF3,MF4
MF17

(c)

MF19

MF6MF19MF22
MF1MF17MF23
MF18
MF11

(d)

Figure 9. Jobs considered in case studies.


and 4 sec. for the job order agents. It was shown through the case studies, that the proposed
multi-agent architecture is capable to generate appropriate process plans and schedules for
all the jobs, as shown for some job agents in the Table 5 and Gantt chart of Fig. 10 (a).
6-1 Robustness against malfunction of machine tools and job specification changes
An additional experiment is also carried out to assess the robustness of the proposed
architecture against the malfunction of the machine tools. The original process plans are
shown for some job agents in the Table 5 and Gantt chart of Fig. 10 (a). In the experiment,
the machine tool MT14 is broken down at simulation time 4811 sec. and the recovery
time is set to be 5000 sec. As you can see in Table 5 and the Gantt chart of Fig. 10 (b), the
proposed architecture can dynamically generate alternative process plans and schedule to
cope with the malfunctions of the machine tools. The job agents can be dynamically
allocated to another manufacturing route in the process plan networks.
In the other experiments, the following unforeseen changes have been considered in the
job specifications.
Change the roughness of the machining features
o Job 03, MF 16 at simulation time 3000
o Job 10, MF 18 at simulation time 10000
Add a new machining feature to the job
o Job 02, MF 21 at simulation time 7000
o Job 04, MF 24 at simulation time 5000
o Job 05, MF 25 at simulation time 2900
Change the size of machining feature
o Job 10, MF16 at simulation time 10000
o Job 03 , MF 21 at simulation time 6500
The results are shown in Table 5 and the Gantt chart of Fig. 10 (c). As shown in Gantt
chart Fig. 10 (c) and Table 5, the proposed architecture can dynamically generate updated
process plans to cope with the changes of job specifications.

8. Conclusion
A multi-agent based integrated process planning and scheduling system was proposed
for the integrated process planning and scheduling systems for the FMSs. The following
remarks are concluded.

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Table 5. Generated process plans and for jobs for case studies
Job

Job

No

Type

Conditions

Process Plans

Flow Time

[(MT14,FI1,CT135)(MF6,MF14,MF17)] [(MT14,FI1,CT135)(MF10)]
Without
unforeseen
changes

[(MT15,FI2,CT149)(MF15)][(MT15,FI2,CT145)(MF3)]
[(MT15,FI2,CT145)(MF4)]

35924

[(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF1,MF5,MF7,MF8,MF13,MF16,MF18,MF19)]
[(MT14,FI1,CT135)(MF20)] [(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF2,MF9,MF11,MF12)]
[(MT15,FI2,CT149)(MF15)] [(MT15,FI2,CT145)(MF3)]

(c)

Malfunction of

[(MT15,FI2,CT145)(MF4)][(MT12,FI1,CT117)(MF13,MF14,MF16,MF18,MF19)]

machine tool

[(MT12,FI1,CT117)(MF20)][(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF1,MF5,MF6,MF7,MF8,MF1

30676

7)] [(MT14,FI1,CT135)(MF10)][(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF2,MF9,MF11,MF12)]
[(MT15,FI2,CT149)(MF15)] [(MT15,FI2,CT149)MF21)]
Job specification
changes

[(MT15,FI2,CT145)(MF3)] [(MT15,FI2,CT145)(MF4)]
[(MT12,FI1,CT117)(MF13,MF14,MF16,MF18,MF19)][(MT12,FI1,CT117)(MF20)]

34346

[(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF1,MF5,MF6,MF7,MF8,MF17)]
[(MT14,FI1,CT135)(MF10)][(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF2,MF9,MF11,MF12)]
[(MT9,FI1,CT81)(MF9,MF10,MF11,MF12,MF13,MF20,MF23,MF24,MF27,MF29)]

Without
unforeseen
changes

[(MT9,FI1,CT81)(MF16,MF30,MF32)]
[(MT14,FI1,CT135)(MF14,MF15,MF18,MF19,MF22,MF26,MF28,MF31)]

16900

[(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF1,MF2,MF3,MF4,MF5,MF6,MF7,MF8)]
[(MT17,FI1,CT163)(MF21)] [(MT17,FI2,CT169)(MF17,MF25)]
[(MT9,FI1,CT81)(MF9,MF10,MF11,MF12,MF13,MF20,MF23,MF24,MF27,MF29)]

(b)

Malfunction of
machine tool

[(MT9,FI1,CT81)(MF16,MF30,MF32)] [(MT17,FI1,CT163)(MF21)]
[(MT14,FI1,CT135)(MF14,MF15,MF18,MF19,MF22,MF26,MF28,MF31)]

17792

[(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF1,MF2,MF3,MF4,MF5,MF6,MF7,MF8)]
[(MT17,FI2,CT169)(MF17,MF25)]
[(MT9,FI1,CT81)(MF9,MF10,MF11,MF12,MF13,MF20,MF23,MF24,MF27,MF29)]

Job specification
changes

[(MT3,FI1,CT27)(MF16,MF30,MF32)] [(MT17,FI1,CT163)(MF21)]
[(MT17,FI2,CT169)(MF17,MF25)]

20780

[(MT14,FI1,CT135)(MF14,MF15,MF18,MF19,MF22,MF26,MF28,MF31)]
[(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF1,MF2,MF3,MF4,MF5,MF6,MF7,MF8)]

Without
unforeseen
changes

[(MT3,FI1,CT27)(MF1,MF2,MF3,MF4,MF5,MF6,MF7,MF12,MF13,MF15,MF21,MF2
3)] [(MT3,FI1,CT27)(MF8,MF9)]
[(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF14,MF16,MF17,MF18,MF19,MF20,MF22,MF24)]

8683

[(MT17,FI1,CT165)(MF11)][(MT17,FI1,CT163)(MF10)]
[(MT3,FI1,CT27)(MF1,MF2,MF3,MF4,MF5,MF6,MF7,MF12,MF13,MF15,MF21,MF2

(a)

Malfunction of
machine tool

3)][(MT3,FI1,CT27)(MF8,MF9)][(MT17,FI1,CT165)(MF11)]
[(MT17,FI1,CT163)(MF10)][(MT12,FI1,CT117)(MF14,MF16,MF17,MF18,MF19,

25500

MF20,MF22,MF24)]
[(MT3,FI1,CT27)(MF1,MF2,MF3,MF4,MF5,MF6,MF7,MF12,MF13,MF15,MF21,MF2
Job specification 3)][(MT3,FI1,CT27)(MF8,MF9)][(MT3,FI1,CT23)(MF25)][(MT17,FI1,CT165
changes

)(MF11)][(MT17,FI1,CT163)(MF10)][(MT14,FI1,CT133)(MF14,MF16,MF17,

17922

MF18,MF19,MF20,MF22,MF24)]

Note: [(MT, FI, CT)|(MF,)] indicate [(Machine tool number, Fixture number,
Cutting tool number)|(Machining feature number,..)]
(1) A multi-agent system consisting of five basic agents and a negotiation protocol among
the agents were proposed to carry out the various tasks in the process planning and the
scheduling. The individual agents have the capability for the distributed
decision-making and the communications with the other agents.
(2) A systematic procedure was proposed to generate suitable process plans of the jobs and
suitable schedules of the machine tools. The proposed method is able to solve the
process planning and scheduling problems concurrently and dynamically, with use of
the search algorithms of the process plan networks.

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Journal of Advanced Mechanical Design,


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Vol. 2, No. 4, 2008

Idle and Negotiation


Transportation and
refixturing
Machine Tool 03
Machine Tool 06
Machine Tool 09
Machine Tool 12
Machine Tool 14
Machine Tool 15
Machine Tool 17

(a) Original schedule without unforeseen changes

Idle and Negotiation


Transportation and
refixturing
Machine Tool 03
Machine Tool 06
Machine Tool 09
Machine Tool 12
Machine Tool 14
Machine Tool 15
Machine Tool 17

(b) Modified schedule for malfunction of machine tool MT14

Idle and Negotiation


Transportation and
refixturing
Machine Tool 03
Machine Tool 06
Machine Tool 09
Machine Tool 12
Machine Tool 14
Machine Tool 15
Machine Tool 17

(c) Modified schedule for job specification changes


Figure 10. Gantt chart for case studies
(3) Some case studies have been carried out to verify the applicability of the proposed
method to the integrated process planning and scheduling problems in the FMSs
including 7 machine tools and 10 jobs. It was shown, through the case studies, that the
proposed multi-agent architecture is capable to generate appropriate process plans and
schedules. It was also shown that the proposed architecture generates alternative
process plans dynamically, to cope with the malfunctions of the machine tools and
unforeseen job specification changes.

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Journal of Advanced Mechanical Design,


Systems, and
Manufacturing
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