Workshop on

Agents for Electronic Commerce and

Managing the Internet-Enabled Supply Chain

Seattle, Washington, May 1, 1999

Workshop of the 3nd International Conference on Autonomous Agents (Agents '99)

Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is the use of the Internet along with other electronic means and technologies to conduct commerce, including within-business, business-to-consumer and business-to-business interactions. The volume of e-commerce is growing rapidly as companies strive to stay competitive by quickly responding to changes in the global marketplace. Industry experts predict that by the year 2000 the volume of e-commerce in the United States will grow to $70 billion up from $500 million in 1996. Companies want to take advantage of increased information sharing, integration and collaboration within the company and with supply-chain partners to reduce procurement, order processing and transaction lead times and costs; to gain a better understanding of customers via on-line profiles; to improve customer service; to increase inventory turns; to increase revenues by expanding market share and developing new markets (reaching customers which current sales channels don't reach). E-commerce opens up new opportunities for manufacturers and distributors by allowing them to more easily trade inventory, capacity and demand in order to make the best use of their available resources. Furthermore, as transaction costs decline, new types of transactions, such as auctions, barter and consignment sales become feasible for smaller quantities of goods.

As the wold-wide-web evolves and expands to include more business-to-business transactions, information sharing and the level of integration of activities between the supply-chain partners will increase. This new complexity necessitates new approaches to option generation, decision-support and information management in order to build highly flexible, fast, secure, and reliable systems that can allow businesses to take advantage of the new opportunities.

Web based agent systems have proven useful in helping individuals shop for consumer items, like air-line tickets, CDs and books. In addition, agent based systems have been effective in dealing with the volume and complexity found in planning and scheduling manufacturing processes. Combining work in these areas can lead to viable agent-based systems for e-commerce activities such as sales, procurement, collaborative forecasting, design and planning. Such systems can open the door to new levels of efficiency and profit. In building these systems, designers have to deal with the problems of user preference elicitation, option generation, option filtering and meaningful presentation of the available options. Dealing with the complexity, volume and time critical nature of the environment are the research challenges that we face as builders of agent based systems for business-to-business e-commerce.

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together researchers interested in agents for decision-support, supply-chain management, optimization and e-commerce to explore issues and opportunities in these areas.

These issues include, but are not limited to:

The workshop invites the presentation of current work and position statements on future developments on these and related topics.