As manufacturing companies increase the level of customization in their product offerings, move towards smaller lot production, and experiment with more flexible customer/supplier arrangements such as those made possible by EDI/Electronic Commerce, they increasingly require the ability to respond quickly, accurately and competitively to customer requests for bids on new products and efficiently work out supplier/subcontractor arrangements for these new products. This in turn requires the ability to rapidly convert standard-based product specifications into process plans and integrate new orders with their process plans into existing production schedules across the supply chain.
The IP3S shell emphasizes blackboard-based support for a broad range of mixed-initiative and workflow management functionalities for agile manufacturing. IP3S has been customized for a Raytheon machine shop where 50% of incoming orders require the generation or revision of process plans and coordination with a tool shop. Experiments with IP3S show an average performance improvement of 23% in solution quality over a more traditional, decoupled approach to building process planning/production scheduling solutions in this environment.