A. Tarau, B. De Schutter, and H. Hellendoorn, "Multi-agent controllers for large-scale transportation systems - Application to postal automation," Proceedings of the 9th TRAIL Congress 2006 - TRAIL in Motion - CD-ROM, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 12 pp., Nov. 2006.
During the last decades, transportation systems have known fast growing volumes of transporting materials and the focus is on quality, reliability and throughput maximization. The throughput of these automated sorting and transporting machines is limited by mechanical capabilities and also by the performance of the process devices (surface scanners, address reading devices, bar-code reading devices, etc.). What we require are structured distributed control strategies, applicable for general transportation systems, characterized by materials being processed, while they are transported by conveyor systems e.g. sorting machines, baggage handling, distribution systems. The goal is e.g. to maximize the throughput. In this paper we take postal automation as an example of transportation system. We give an overview on how postal automation works, we define the control problems and list some important open problems in controlling the system. Finally, we propose possible approaches to address some of these open problems.