• agent-based modeling;
  • efficient scheduling;
  • batch processes;
  • general network structure;
  • mixed-integer programming

A novel efficient agent-based method for scheduling network batch processes in the process industry is proposed. The agent-based model is based on the resource-task network. To overcome the drawback of localized solutions found in conventional agent-based methods, a new scheduling algorithm is proposed. The algorithm predicts the objective function value by simulating another cloned agent-based model. Global information is obtained, and the solution quality is improved. The solution quality of this approach is validated by detailed comparisons with the mixed-integer programming (MIP) methods. A solution close to the optimal one can be found by the agent-based method with a much shorter computational time than the MIP methods. As a scheduling problem becomes increasingly complicated with increased scale, more specifications, and uncertainties, the advantages of the agent-based method become more evident. The proposed method is applied to simulated industrial problems where the MIP methods require excessive computational resources. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 59: 2884–2906, 2013