Using min-sum loopy belief propagation for decentralised supply chain formation.
PHD thesis, Aston University.
Modern business trends such as agile manufacturing and virtual corporations require high levels of flexibility and responsiveness to consumer demand, and require the ability to quickly and efficiently select trading partners. Automated computational techniques for supply chain formation have the potential to provide significant advantages in terms of speed and efficiency over the traditional manual approach to partner selection. Automated supply chain formation is the process of determining the participants within a supply chain and the terms of the exchanges made between these participants. In this thesis we present an automated technique for supply chain formation based upon the min-sum loopy belief propagation algorithm (LBP). LBP is a decentralised and distributed message-passing algorithm which allows participants to share their beliefs about the optimal structure of the supply chain based upon their costs, capabilities and requirements. We propose a novel framework for the application of LBP to the existing state-of-the-art case of the decentralised supply chain formation problem, and extend this framework to allow for application to further novel and established problem cases. Specifically, the contributions made by this thesis are: • A novel framework to allow for the application of LBP to the decentralised supply chain formation scenario investigated using the current state-of-the-art approach. Our experimental analysis indicates that LBP is able to match or outperform this approach for the vast majority of problem instances tested. • A new solution goal for supply chain formation in which economically motivated producers aim to maximise their profits by intelligently altering their profit margins. We propose a rational pricing strategy that allows producers to earn significantly greater profits than a comparable LBP-based profitmaking approach. • An LBP-based framework which allows the algorithm to be used to solve supply chain formation problems in which goods are exchanged in multiple units, a first for a fully decentralised technique. As well as multiple-unit exchanges, we also model in this scenario realistic constraints such as factory capacities and input-to-output ratios. LBP continues to be able to match or outperform an extended version of the existing state-of-the-art approach in this scenario. • Introduction of a dynamic supply chain formation scenario in which participants are able to alter their properties or to enter or leave the process at any time. Our results suggest that LBP is able to deal easily with individual occurences of these alterations and that performance degrades gracefully when they occur in larger numbers.