Scheduling of flexible manufacturing systems integrating Petri nets and artificial intelligence methods
The work undertaken in this thesis is about the integration of two well-known methodologies: Petri net (PN) model Ii ng/analysis of industrial production processes and Artificial Intelligence (AI) optimisation search techniques. The objective of this integration is to demonstrate its potential in solving a difficult and widely studied problem, the scheduling of Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FIVIS). This work builds on existing results that clearly show the convenience of PNs as a modelling tool for FIVIS. It addresses the problem of the integration of PN and Al based search methods. Whilst this is recognised as a potentially important approach to the scheduling of FIVIS there is a lack of any clear evidence that practical systems might be built. This thesis presents a novel scheduling methodology that takes forward the current state of the art in the area by: Firstly presenting a novel modelling procedure based on a new class of PN (cb-NETS) and a language to define the essential features of basic FIVIS, demonstrating that the inclusion of high level FIVIS constraints is straight forward. Secondly, we demonstrate that PN analysis is useful in reducing search complexity and presents two main results: a novel heuristic function based on PN analysis that is more efficient than existing methods and a novel reachability scheme that avoids futile exploration of candidate schedules. Thirdly a novel scheduling algorithm that overcomes the efficiency drawbacks of previous algorithms is presented. This algorithm satisfactorily overcomes the complexity issue while achieving very promising results in terms of optimality. Finally, this thesis presents a novel hybrid scheduler that demonstrates the convenience of the use of PN as a representation paradigm to support hybridisation between traditional OR methods, Al systematic search and stochastic optimisation algorithms. Initial results show that the approach is promising.