Carnegie Mellon Organizes Supply Chain Trading Agent Competition Where More than 30 Teams Will Vie to Assemble, Sell Computers for Maximum Profit

Byron SpiceFriday, July 16, 2004

PITTSBURGH-Computer agents developed by 32 teams from around the world will come together this week at Columbia University in New York City and vie to surpass each other at manufacturing, selling and distributing personal computers in the second annual Supply Chain Management Trading Agent Competition (TAC-SCM)

The games were designed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers working with this year's conference organizers from the Swedish Institute of Computer Science (SICS), including Sverker Janson, Joakim Eriksson, and Niclas Finne.

Final rounds of the competition will take place July 20-22 at the Third International Conference on Autonomous Agents & Multi Agent Systems (AAMAS 04) to be held at Columbia University. Seeding rounds for the competition have been under way since July 5. The top 24 teams will play in the finals.

TAC-SCM pits teams against each other in a game modeled after PC assembly supply chains. Computer agents are responsible for bidding on requests for quotes from prospective customers, for selecting offers from prospective component suppliers and for deciding when to assemble and ship PCs. The game has been carefully designed to capture the complexity, dynamics and competitive nature of typical supply chain environments.

"In the past, trading agent competitions have focused around travel scenarios, where agents compete to secure plane tickets and hotel rooms for their customers," said Norman Sadeh, associate professor in Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science, where he directs the Mobile Commerce and e-Supply Chain Management Laboratories. "With TAC-SCM, we wanted to introduce researchers to a problem that a much broader segment of industry can relate to. With annual worldwide supply chain transactions in the trillions of dollars, the potential impact of performance improvements is tremendous. Through TAC-SCM, we hope to show industry how automated trading technologies can help improve their bottom line in the future."

In addition to Sadeh, Carnegie Mellon's team includes Raghu Arunachalam, research engineer in the School of Computer Science; Sun Jiong, a graduate student in the Tepper School of Business; and visiting scientist Young Jae Park.

In a single game, teams from six different institutions compete against each other. Each game lasts an hour and simulates a total of 220 12-second workdays. Agents must buy computer components including memory, processors, motherboards and disk drives and deliver assembled computers to customers at competitive prices. In the end, the winning team is the one with the most money in the bank.

The winner of last year's competition was a team from McGill University in Montreal. Second place went to a team from the University of Michigan, with third place captured by a team from the University of Texas at Austin. As game designers, Carnegie Mellon did not enter the initial event, but this year, they will be participating. This year, hundreds of AAMAS participants are expected to follow the competition, including a number of representatives from leading companies.

MEDIA INFORMATION-To attend the TAC-SYM competition, media should report to the lobby of Alfred Lerner Hall on the Columbia University campus (115th Street and Broadway), where a registration area and help desk are located. Members of the press must present identification credentials to be admitted to the competition.

For more information about the TAC-SCM, see

To reach Norman Sadeh: 412-580-2135

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Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |