Delft University of Technology
Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering
Transport Technology / Logistic Engineering

H.J. Wierenga Intelligent agents in logistics.
Literature survey, Report 2000.LT.5302, Transport Technology, Logistic Engineering.

Conventional logistic systems are large centrally managed control systems based on top-down architecture. Fundamental changes in economic, social and legislative factors have made market demands for logistic systems become more complex. New logistic systems should be adaptable, changeable, scaleable and network-oriented. The objective of this paper is to find out if and how intelligent agents can be used in new logistic systems.

The concept of agents comes from Minsky who tried to explain how the mind works, using a model made of many small processes, called agents. Agents are software components that can perceive, reason, act, communicate with other agents, have a social autonomy, can modify their own behavior and which can be heterogeneous.
Agents are best developed in multiagent systems (MASs), but most agent-based systems currently consist of a single agent. Neither systematic methodology to design MAS-applications nor a widely available MAS-toolkit does yet exist.

Communication is an important issue in the development of MASs. Two main Agent Communication Languages (ACLs) do exist now: KQML and Arcol. These ACLs are focussed on pragmatics (the way symbols in the ACL are interpreted and used) instead of on commitments. Focussing on commitments is a promising solution.

In this report three different examples of application of intelligent agents in logistics in different fields are discussed: agents in job flow scheduling, in simulation software and in urban traffic control.

Although theoretically it is possible to build an agent-based logistic system that meets all requirements for new logistic systems, in practise this still is difficult. The application with the best-structured architecture has the least problems with meeting the requirements.

Reports on Logistic Engineering (in Dutch)
Modified: 2000.02.23; , TU Delft / 3mE / TT / LT.