In this paper, we propose a class of algorithms for the sub-optimal solution of a particular class of problems of process scheduling, particularly focusing on a case study in the area of flexible manufacturing systems (FMSs). The general class of problems we face in our approach is characterized as follows: there is a set of concurrent processes, each formed by a number of temporally related tasks (segments). Tasks are executable by alternate resource sets, different both in performance and costs. Processes and tasks are characterized by release times, due dates, and deadlines. Time constraints are also present in the availability of each resource in resource sets. It has been proven that such a problem does not admit an algorithm for an optimal solution in polynomial time. Our proposed algorithm finds a sub-optimal schedule according to a set of optimization criteria, based on task and process times (earliness, tardiness), and/or time independent costs of resources. Our approach to process scheduling is based on Timed Coloured Petri Nets. We describe the structure of the coordination and scheduling algorithms, concentrating on (i) the general-purpose component, and (ii) the application-dependent component. In particular, the paper focuses on the following issues: (i) theautomatic synthesis of Petri net models of the coordination subsystem, starting from the problem knowledge base; (ii) the dynamic behavior of the coordination subsystem, whose kernel is a High Level Petri net executor, a coordination process based on an original, general purpose algorithm; (iii) the structure of the real-time scheduling subsystem, based on particular heuristic sub-optimal multi-criteria algorithms. Furthermore, the paper defines the interaction mechanisms between the coordination and scheduling subsystems. Our approach clearly distinguishes the mechanism of the net execution from the decision support system. Two conceptually distinct levels, which correspond to two different, interacting implementation modules in the prototype CASE tool, have been defined: theexecutor and thescheduler levels. One of the outstanding differences between these levels is that the executor is conceived as a fast, efficient coordination process, without special-purpose problem-solving capabilities in case of conflicts. The scheduler, on the other hand, is the adaptive, distributed component, whose behavior may heavily depend on the problem class. If the scheduler fails, the executor is, in any case, able to proceed with a general-purpose conflict resolution strategy. Experimental results on the real-time performance of the kernel of the implemented system are finally shown in the paper. The approach described in this paper is at the basis of a joint project with industrial partners for the development of a CASE tool for the simulation of blast furnaces.
High-level petri nets timed Petri nets concurrent scheduling flexible manufacturing systems CASE