Traditional control approaches are based on centralised and hierarchical structures, following the well-known ANSI/ISA-95 (2010), also known as automation pyramid, which presents good production optimisation, but a weak response to condition change and reconﬁgurability due to the rigidity, monolithic and centralisation of their control structures. These control approaches are not designed or prepared to respond to the current demanding requirements of responsiveness, scalability, reconﬁgurability and robustness.
The advent of Industry 4.0 led to the use of distributed control structures, the use of the decentralisation of control nodes and the introduction of intelligence to transform the existing assets into smart processes and machines, and also considering smart products as important players in this ecosystem. Multi-agent Systems (MAS) and holonic systems are suitable to face these demanding requirements since they offer an alternative way to design and implement such innovative systems taking advantage of their capability to decentralise the management over distributed structures towards modularity, scalability, robustness, fault-tolerance, reconﬁgurability and re-usability.
The development of Industry 4.0 compliant solutions will constitute a new opportunity to use MAS and holonics to realise these innovative, and emergent Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems (ICPS) that foster the backbone of Industry 4.0
This chapter introduces the main conceptual foundations of MAS and holonic systems and presents the framing of industrial agents as an instantiation of such technological paradigms to face industrial requirements, e.g. those posed by ICPS. The alignment of industrial agents with RAMI 4.0 is also addressed, and in particular, it is discussed the use of industrial agents to realise ICPS, concretely to enhance the functionalities provided by the Asset Administration Shells (AAS), which play an important role in the development and implementation of Industry 4.0 components. At the end, the chapter discusses some research challenges and directions that current arise from the deployment of industrial agents.