PhD Studentship: Multi Agent Based Anarchic Production Systems: Smarter manufacturing through context awareness

University of Bristol - Mechanical Engineering

Salary/stipend Minimum £14,296 p.a. subject to confirmation

Duration 3.5 years

Starting date 1 October 2017

The project:  Production planning is usually a centralised activity where manufacturing enterprises gather data from a hierarchic structure and take production decisions based on aggregated and simplified information; decisions are therefore based on limited information. To improve decision making, heterarchical manufacturing systems have been proposed that allow decision making processes to be conducted in a distributed manner as a result of collaboration between products and the resources such as workers, machines and auxiliary devices.

In such systems, a major challenge is to ensure that the locally optimised decisions that are taken by products and machines result in a production plan that is optimised globally for the enterprise. The most common method for achieving this control is combining the distributed decision taking with centralised monitoring and control.

Further Particulars In this project, an alternative approach based on context awareness of actors involved in the decision making process is explored using multi agent systems. Here, production is planned as the result of interaction and collaboration between software agents representing the products, the machines and other auxiliary resources. However, in contrast to current heterarchical methods, there is no centralised control. Instead, the agents are given awareness of the implications of their decisions for the global enterprise (through methods such as system dynamics) and programmed to adhere to a set of “ethics” that ensure that the decisions that they take are for the good of the entire company. Compared to existing methods, this could reduce communication costs, reliance on a central monitoring system to assess the viability of production goals and better flexibility when the availability of resources is variable.

The project would thus aim to specify, design, realise and evaluate an ‘anarchic’ platform for manufacturing systems that could supersede existing methods of realising smart manufacturing systems at a lower cost with better performance.

How to apply:  Please make an online application for this project at Please select Mechanical Engineering (PhD) on the Programme Choice page and enter details of the studentship when prompted in the Funding and Research Details sections of the form together with the name of the supervisor, Dr, Aydin Nassehi.

Candidate requirements:  A high upper second-class honours degree in Mechanical, Manufacturing, Software, Industrial engineering degree or equivalent.

Basic skills and knowledge required: Scheduling or production planning. A knowledge of agent based systems is desirable.

Funding: Scholarship (subject to confirmation) covers full UK/EU (EU applicants who have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to application) PhD tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the current RCUK rate (£14,296 in 2016/17).  EU nationals resident in the EU may also apply but will only qualify for PhD tuition fees.

Contacts:   Dr Aydin Nassehi (

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