Agent Technologies for Virtual Enterprises in the One-of-a-Kind-Production Industry

Jeroen W. J. Gijsen, Nicholas B. Szirbik, Gerd Wagner
2002 International Journal of Electronic Commerce  
This work proposes a way to model the structure and behavior of agents supporting the information systems of a virtual enterprise. The research is focused on a special type of virtual enterprises, namely those that formed for One-of-a-kind-products (OKP), that is, highly individualized and rather unique projects. First, the nature of business processes in such an environment is presented, together with a brief discussion about the state-of-the-art of collaboration/cooperation mechanisms that
more » ... enacted between people and information systems in the distributed virtual enterprise. Next, the basic agent modeling methods stemming from the AOR (agent-object-relationship) language are presented. It is shown also how the virtual enterprise concepts and its information systems can be identified using these modeling methods, giving details about structure, interaction and behavior modeling. Finally, as an example, a model of a multi-agent system mapped onto a virtual enterprise model is presented. 1 Introduction In today's competitive business environment, companies cannot afford to be second-rate at any aspect of their business offering. On the other hand, one cannot realistically expect them to be first-rate at everything either. Virtual enterprises allow the possibility of bringing together several vendor organizations that are first-rate within their core capabilities thereby creating an organization that is overall first-rate. The challenges posed to virtual enterprises are both managerial and technological in nature. The information technological (IT) infrastructure of such organizations has to provide the scalability and efficiency of this business model. This paper attempts to show that agent technologies hold a great promise in enabling the virtual enterprises of the future. We focus on virtual enterprises in the one-of-a-kind-production industry that is described in section 2. In section 3, the basic concepts of virtual enterprises and the role of IT support are discussed. Then, in section 4, we show how an agent-oriented modeling method can be used to model virtual enterprises and their information systems. In section 5, we briefly discuss the use of agent interaction protocols for specifying automated message exchanges in the set-up of a virtual enterprise, and in section 6, we propose a Third-Trusted-Party model for providing agent-based IT support to the vendors participating in a virtual enterprise. The One-of-a-Kind-Production Industry Basic Concepts According to [11] , One-of-a-Kind-Production normally means a particular production method by which a product (i.e. 'One') ordered by an individual customer within a specific product domain (i.e. 'a-Kind') can be developed and produced. This production method has been widely adopted by the heavy industry. A shipbuilding company, for instance, can produce different ships
doi:10.1080/10864415.2002.11044261 fatcat:ih2quzqierh7dadhmux4awy3xa