TRENDS IN AGILE AND CO OPERATIVE MANUFACTURING
This paper discusses the actual state of the manufacturing systems, focusing on the paradigms, requirements and problems for control and supervision. Based on the experience of the authors in those fields, a new approach to agile, distributed and cooperative manufacturing systems is presented and discussed. This new approach is based on a multi-agent platform that supports three main components: control and cooperation, communication, and re-engineering.
World-wide competition among enterprises and the new organizational structures adopted by the enterprises spectrum, led to the need for new systems to perform the control and supervision of distributed manufacturing, through the integration of information systems and self-organisation features, in order to adapt quickly to the environment changes. This paper presents a brief overview of the evolution of the manufacturing paradigms from traditional to the new and distributed organisational environments, as well as the requirements and problems associated to the new distributed and agile organisations. The research work on control and integration architectures for manufacturing systems, both the traditional and advanced approaches, based on the multi-agent technology are presented. The techniques and mechanisms associated to the re-engineering process are also discussed. Finally a new approach to agile and co-operative manufacturing, based on a multi-agent architecture, with concepts derived from Holonic Manufacturing Systems is introduced, adopting the re-use of components for the control and monitoring, for the re-engineering process and communication with the manufacturing devices. During several years, the concept of mass manufacturing, characterised by the production of the same product in large scale, was widely accepted and implemented, but in last decades this paradigm could no longer respond to the challenges of modern, dynamic and world-wide business. The globalisation of markets brought to the manufacturing companies the necessity to become more competitive, in order to fulfil the requirements of the market for reduction of prices, better product quality, minimum delivery time, diversity of offer, etc. The mass manufacturing, idealised by Henry Ford was a strap down system, incapable of treating variations in the type of product. This rigidity started to be an obstacle and with the world-wide competition the mass manufacturing became viable only on some products.