Increased flexibility for heterogeneously structured material flow systems enabled by intelligent software agents controlling self-configuring conveyors
In the context of mass-customization and “Industrie 4.0”, the production steps for assembling or machining products have to be adaptable according to the product requirements. Due to this trend, a flexible logistic concept for the material flow among the machines and assembly stations is required. The increasing flexibility can lead to complex material flow systems, which have to be adapted continuously. However, especially small and medium enterprises (SME) need lightweight solutions, which can adapted to the current production demand without engineering or programming. Hence, the research project iSiKon is focused on material flow units which can run autonomously and can be connected via plug&play. Since each module can provide different services, the transportation demands can be fulfilled by connecting these modules. The proposed requirements regarding flexibility and intelligent control strategies are provided by a multi agent system. Based on a knowledge base including localization parameters and provided services, agents can manage the material flow within their decision scope. Additionally, the communication can be performed in real-time in order to execute cross-module control algorithms. Finally a visualization of the system’s status as well as the agent’s negotiation enables the user interaction.