J. Serv. Sci. & Management, 2008, 1: 153-158
Published Online August 2008 in SciRes (www.SRPublishing.org/journal/jssm)
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
Reconfigurable Logistics Information System Based on
Soft Components Technology
Feng Liang
Dept. of Industrial Engineering, Nankai University.Tianjin 300457, China
Logistics information system should be reconfigurable, open and extensible to support the total supply chain. Soft com-
ponent technology is introduced to design and build the logistics information system oriented to the business demand of
kinds of supply chains. When the supply chain is changed, logistics information system organizes all kinds of required
logistics resources, by recalling predefined soft components to dynamically configure logistics information system,
which can ensure quick respond to the changes of supply chain demand and support dynamic reconfiguration of the
logistics information system. In this paper, a method of reconfiguration of logistics information system by using soft
component technology is proposed. The key problems to the subject domain are investigated and an illustrative case
study is presented.
Keywords: supply chain management, logistics information system, soft component technology, logistics function
1. Introduction
Logistics information system (LIS) is becoming impor-
tant as it provides efficient and effective logistics man-
agement that aims to reduce cost and cycle time for its
customers on the supply chain. LIS are flexible tools for
collecting, aggregating and analyzing data from the op-
erative applications (Purchasing, Sales, Logistics, Inven-
tory Controlling, Plant Maintenance, Quality Manage-
ment/Inspection Processing), which enable users to con-
tinually control target criteria and to react in time to ex-
ceptional situation s .
Logistics management typically deals with various in-
bound and outbound logistics activities that involve all
levels of planning and execution [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. However,
many small and medium-sized third party logistics (3PL)
providers still focus on internal operation performance
but lack the vision of collaborating with other supply
chain participants on improving overall supply chain
performance. Moreover, these 3PL providers are unable
to synchronize information with trading partners in real-
time for making timely decision or providing responsive
services. It is unresponsive in today’s digital era. New
method is needed to support the business growth of 3PL
providers in the coming future, which should be recon-
figurable to support the different supply chain and to
response different customer demands.
As a new concept, soft components technology accel-
erates the development of the imperative reconfiguration
form [6]. The soft components technology has many ad-
vantages, such as reuse, simplified development process,
and reduced development cost, improved quality of de-
veloping logistics and so on. Consequently, the logistics
information system based on soft components technology
has inherent capabilities for capacity change, customer
variety and shorter changeover time and cost. The soft
components, applied to the reconfigurable logistics in-
formation system, can link the different component by
the well-defined (friendly and standardized) interface to
improve the system flexibility and to accomplish the re-
sponse to the different customer requirement. To support
the different kinds of supply chain, logistics information
systems are organized rapidly to adapt the requirement of
the response in the logistics enterprise according to the
current customer requirements. This approach can ensure
efficient and predictable uses of the logistics resources.
The rest of this paper is organized as follows. The con-
cepts and development of soft component technology
will be presented in Section 2. The architecture and im-
plementation of reconfigurable logistics information sys-
tem is described in Section 3 and 4. A case study is pre-
sented in Section 5. Finally, conclusions are made in Sec-
tion 6.
2. Soft Components Technology
The “component’’ paradigm is emerging in the more
specific domain of software components. [7]. From the
software engineering point of view, a software compo-
nent is only a unit of composition with contractually
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Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
specified interfaces and explicit context dependencies,
which can be deployed independently and is subject to
composition by third parties [10]. The primary goal of
component concept is reuse, which presents some impor-
tant advantages. For example, if 50% of the components
in new software have been already efficiently used else-
where, it means that the software developers need to de-
velop only 50% of the new software [8]. Consequently,
the developer can produce this software more rapidly
compared with entirely writing it.
At present, there are trends that those theories and
methods are applied to the other systems. When applied
to the common systems, a component is defined as a part
of an application that is developed and tested independ-
ently and integrated later into the application through
simple communication [9]. Broadly defined, soft compo-
nents technology focuses on the conception of plug and
play soft components which can be used immediately
after embedded as the center, and thus the system can be
built by combining components. It is unnecessary to con-
struct entirely the new software system, which is very
different from others. Reversely, using the existing soft
components directly, the new system can be assembled
(or be modified within reason moderately). So the soft
components technology has two aspects as follows:
z Software Components: Corresponding with the
component conception of software system, the technol-
ogy of software components such as JavaBeans and
COM etc. is adopted at the area of application develop-
ment. Because those technologies are mature and com-
mercial, they can rapidly accomplish the construction of
a new system. The benefits of legacy software adaptation
come from simplified testing and more controlled soft-
ware modifications with a view to future software system
z Flexible Components: From the system structure
point of view, the whole system is composed of flexible
components dynamically. The structure of each compo-
nent can be changed and thus flexible. A component can
both embed other components and also be embedded into
other components. The granularity of component is rele-
vant to the actual instance specification.
Unlike other systems, systems based on soft compo-
nent are designed to be installed with the exact logistics
capacity and functionality needed, and to be upgraded (in
terms of capacity and functionality) in the future. Ex-
panded capacity and functio nality enables the logistics of
more complex part types and logistics a variety of part
types on the same system. Compared with the traditional
reconfiguration technology, soft components technology
has the following characteristics:
z Plug and play. One can integrate components
into the frame conveniently, without either modifying
code or compiling again. But he must verify its specifica-
tions’ coherence with the new environment
z Independent. The interface of component is
separated from the accomplishment of the component.
Thus, the system designer only needs to take care of the
interface, without knowing the implementation details. It
also provides an encapsulation and execution environ-
ment for logistics systems. The well-defined interface
provides encapsulation and a uniform view to the overall
software design.
z Customization. The developers design the sys-
tem capability and flexibility (hardware and controls) to
exactly match the application, which represent the ability
to adapt the customized (non-general) flexibility of logis-
tics information systems to meet new requirements with
Considering the above advantages of soft component
technology, we introduce it to the reconfiguration of lo-
gistics information system. From a system-engineering
point of view, the key issue with component-based logis-
tics information system architecture is the efficient utili-
zation of the logistics resources in data-intensive applica-
3. Reconfigurable Logistics Information Sys-
The reconfigurable logistics information system adopt
the method of “building blocks” to organize logistics
information system, that is, a new system is developed by
using existing components as building blocks. Firstly, the
logistics resources are designed to be individual toy brick.
Then, when the order arrives, user can organize “building
block” to form the logistics information system in terms
of the logistics order plan. When the logistics task plan
changes, one can manage and control logistics resources
with the certain rules, and replace some portion of
“building block” or add other “building block” to adjust
the system structure to respond to the change of logistics
dynamically. From the modeling technology perspective,
those “building block” are soft components presenting
logistics resources, which can constitute many logistics
information systems. For different applications, different
constriction conditions are established according to the
existing logistics resources, and different resources can
be optimized and reconfigured to form the optimum lo-
gistics information system. When there may be several
feasible candidates, one needs to choose a most appropri-
ate one.
Soft components technology applied to construct the
logistics information system has the following character-
z Separates the system designer from the model
builder of logistics resources, thus the designer do not
need to consider the specific logistics resource model.
The system designer and soft component developer may
work together in concurrent way.
Reconfigurable Logistics Information System Based on Soft Components Technology 155
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
z Enhance the system flexibility. Given logistics
tasks, the required system can be constituted by the cor-
responding soft components stored in the components
library. And the system does not need to be designed
entirely, which ensure that the similar function parts are
not repeatedly written. As thu s, it not only enhances sys-
tem flexibility but also improves the planners’ efficiency.
z Elevate the system openness. By hiding and en-
capsulating the structural details of data and algorithms
that underpin the logistics system and logistics resources,
and by supplying a specification interface to the user, the
soft component technology offers a high openness. But in
integrating a component into a new environment, one
must verify its specifications’ coherence with the new
environment, which ensures that the function is not dis-
rupted by its use mode. [10]
z Improve the system agility. When the condition
changes or the resources conflicts, one can schedule the
logistics resources effectively, and reconfigure the logis-
tics system rapidly.
Therefore, using the soft components technology, the
logistics information system can realize the dynamic
change of system structure to respond the change of sup-
ply chain environment and logistics task, which makes it
suitable to the different type of logistics applications.
Furthermore, along with the above procedure, the do-
main-public soft components library will be formed
gradually, which can be applied to the different applica-
tions to amplify the system generalization.
4. System Implementation
It is very complicated that how to design reconfigurable
logistics information system. Figure 1 shows that the
development procedure of soft component-based system
is a concurrent and two-dimensional procedure, where
the system planner is separated from the model developer
of logistics resources. From the system planner perspec-
tive, it follows the common development procedure,
namely requirement analyzing, system simple design,
system detailed design, assembling & testing, and logis-
tics delivery, etc. In this step, close-loop control is intro-
duced to feedback the required information, which con-
tributes to the designers to solve the problems arisen in
practice. On the other hand, from the soft component
developer perspective, it represents soft component de-
velopment procedure, which consists of group classifying,
characteristic distilling, and component test. In this mode,
soft component technology encapsulates machines as
virtual devices, making the architecture more under-
standable for software developers. In the following sec-
tion, we will discuss the two p rocedures in detail.
4.1. System Planning
To develop soft component-based system, it is necessary
to divide the application into components. So the first
step to be considered is to have an investigation on do-
main analysis, which helps to the understanding of a
problem and its solution components. This analysis al-
lows for identifying and classifying by types of themes
treated, which plays a key role in th e iden tification of soft
components. From the analysis, a list of domains that
characterize the activities of logistics task planning is
established. At his stage, the whole system is divided into
three parts: common part, reusable part (which is relevant
to some domain) and special part. As a consequence, the
components can be classified into the following three
classes based on functionality: Generic Component (GC),
Domain-Generic Component (DGC) and Domain-
Specific Component (DSC). The design steps are dis-
cussed as follows:
Build genetic component.
It is obvious that there are some basic parts in a common
system, which are to provide some genetic service, such
as database management part, network connect part, etc.
These generic components could be used as basic service
to build other systems, which are genetic elements inde-
pendent of the considered problem and specific elements
dedicated to the developed system [7]. These generic
models are obtained after an analysis of a domain, which
make the architecture adaptable to various kinds of appli-
cations. It is horizontal reuse, which consists of using
generic components in different applications.
Design domain-generic component
Domain-generic component is a special component that
contributes some genetic services to a special domain,
which is only applied in some special applications. The
group technology (GT) is introduced to classify the logis-
tics resources frequently, which is based on the principle
of grouping similar parts into families. Given different
orders, the different components are assembled to con-
struct the oriented- order system. During this period, the
particular information flow of a special order need not be
considered, because the following domain-special com-
ponents should be assembled to meet the special demands.
This is a vertical reuse which means that components are
specific to a domain of expertise or implementation. Its
objective is to derive generic models from a family of
systems in some domain.
Develop domain-special component
The goal of domain-special component is to provide some
special services for a special order in a special domain.
After investigating the enterprise and building the above
basic module, the developer can design the domain-
special components to construct the oriented-order logis-
tics system.
The steps of system design flow are illustrated as fol-
lows: when the logistics task arrives, job shop controller
assign the tasks to the corresponding system controller,
which will form the oriented- order logistics system in
terms of adding component directly, selecting appropriate
156 Feng Liang
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
component and recompiling component. Using the spe-
cial communication channels, the system controllers can
send massage to the workstations, which directly control
the corresponding equipments.
Appling this construction mode, the logistics informa-
tion system can be capable of handling a variety of logis-
tics tasks efficiently. Ideally, if the components constitut-
ing the logistics information system have form a certain
scale, which mean that a large structural frame is consid-
ered as the invariant around which small variant functions
can be added (i.e. modifying code lines), the components
in this system can be regarded as a total collection to be
stored in component library. In addition, the relation
among the components is dynamically allied. When the
order arrives, the required components are selected and
locked to construct logistics information system with
other components; after the tasks fulfilled, the relations
are broken automatically, and the components are
unlocked and free to be applied to other systems.
4.2. Soft Component Design
The soft component design is a key problem of soft com-
ponent-based system development. In this paper, the
components in logistics systems are classified two classes
as follows:
Figure 1 illustrates the stru cture of logistics function com-
ponent, which has three layers. Information layer includes
the basic characteristics of logistics resource; application
layer represents the behavior of component to finish the
actual process function; the information integration tech-
nology is applied to the design of interface layer to ensure
seamless conjunction among the components, which sup-
port the plug and play of component, and realize the re-
configurable logistics information system.
Figure 1. Logistics function component design
Figure 2. The relation between logistics function compo-
nent & process component
4.2.1. Logistics Function Component
To design these soft components, we can draw up and
sum up existing logistics resources, abstract and mimic
some of the traits of logistics parameter, capsule by ob-
ject-oriented and aspect-oriented concept to construct soft
components, etc. Different components in the same do-
main can be derived or inherited from the domain-generic
components. When the structures of existing components
need to be modified, we should inherit from the former
components as far as possible to keep consistency of the
components structure.
4.2.2. Process Component
It is different between process component and logistics
function component, which is that the farmer’s operating
object is not the detailed data or information but some
logistics function components. The process component
represents the changeable relation between the logistics
function components, such as the coordination and the
connection among the logistics resources. Process com-
ponent not only can be regarded as a single component in
the component library, but also can form another compo-
nent by combining with other logistics function compo-
nents. Figure 3 shows the relation between the logistics
function component and the process component.
In a systemic point of view, the whole logistics infor-
mation system is looked as a network by dividing the
logistics information into the logistics function compo-
nent and the process component, where the logistics in-
formation component is the “node” and the process com-
ponent is the “chain” to connect the nodes, which deal
with the total logic process procedure jointly. So the lo-
Figure 3. The structure of reconfigurable logistics
information system
Information Layer
Application Layer
Interface Layer
onent structure
Basic property
Domain property
Special property
(b) Component Design
function com-
function com-
function com-
function com-
Reconfigurable Logistics Information System Based on Soft Components Technology 157
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
gistics information system oriented order is formed due to
the different combination of logistics function component
and process component.
5. Software System
The goal of this work is to build a recon fig ur able lo gistics
information system to improve the system’s capability to
respond to changing customer requirements. This model
is based on the soft components technology previously
described and interactions between components allowing
their integration. The system based on the structure will
support the reconfiguration among various heterogeneous
components and remote logistics control. Logistics in-
formation system accomplishes the integration of each
process layer based on this structure, and is reconfigured
according to the process flow. The system is programmed
in Java of J2EE mode, in which the components are ex-
pressed in the form of JavaBean.
The model is built with three layers including informa-
tion layer, middle layer and application layer to improve
system capabilities as shown in Figur e 3.
(1) The first one is responsible for the relational infor-
mation in the system, which includes the management of
user information, order information and logistics resource
information, etc.
(2) The second layer builds the object model from a
collection of relatio nal data. Th is obj ect model constitu tes
the basic platform on which different soft components
build their own specialized object models for their spe-
cific business processes. Middle layer is composed of
three sub-layers: presentation sub-layer, process logic
sub-layer, and data sub-layer, which communicate with
application layer by component integrated platform.
(3) The third layer presents information to the users
and interacts with them. The application layer offers the
following functions: Logistics tasks planning, Logistics
data management, Logistics task query, Exception handle,
Log management, Live monitor, Logistics equipment
management, Business intelligent management, Logistics
quantity control etc.
6. Case Study & Discussion
This case study illustrates the detailed p rocedure for con-
structing a logistics information system and completing
the logistics task.
(1) When a logistics task named “Task1” arrives, the
task controller is created to manage the complete proce-
dure until the task is completed.
(2) With the function of “Component Organization”
provided by the system, different components are con-
tained in the task controller. In the instan ce, several logis-
tics function components and process component are se-
lected to construct the logistics information system to
deal with the logistics task. Furthermore, it is determined
that the task is to be completed by the logistics term
(3) When the task controllers in “”lt_1”, which in-
cludes 10 logistics tasks completed in 8 transportation
vehicles, have constructed the corresponding logistics
information systems, there should be a schedule on the
transportation sequences of all the logistics tasks. In this
case study, a heuristic algorithm is applied to schedule
task-vehicle at the phase of component organization, be-
cause the scheduling algorithms are encapsulated as proc-
ess components. However if there are different algorithms
selected by different tasks in the same logistics term,
some indices are introduced to compare the difference
between these algorithms, such as transportation distance,
due date etc. Finally, the logistics term will adopt the op-
timal algorithm to solve the task-vehicle sche duling pr ob-
(4) During the period of transportation, with the help of
the RFID technology user can scan the procedure of tasks
in transportation in the module of “live monitor”. Fur-
thermore, the task state will change according to the feed-
back information from the vehicles. When the task state is
“Done With”, which means the logistics task has been
completed, the task controller should be destroyed auto-
matically and the relevant components should be released.
All the procedur e will be record ed in d etails in th e system
To construct the reconfigurable logistics information
system, the significant obstacle is to abstract and build the
component model from the actual logistics activities and
logistics enterprises. Considerin g every enterprise has the
own types of logistics operation and activity, If the com-
ponent model can not express the actual logistics activi-
ties or the granularity of component is not enough fine,
the system cannot to organizes the predefined soft com-
ponents to support the rapid response when the supply
chain changed. Furthermore there are also risks involved
in integration of the components. This is due to the fact
that the current logistics systems became complex in-
creasingly. Therefore, this is also a new method that re-
quires further research and development in certain key
7. Conclusion
In this paper, we have proposed a methodology for recon-
figurable logistics information system, which make an
important investigation to build the logistics information
system to support kinds of supply chain. Having briefly
defined the main concepts of soft component technology,
we have clarified two aspects: software component and
flexible component. Then, we have proposed the architec-
ture for logistics information system based on soft com-
ponent technology, which use three layers affect the ap-
plication capabilities. In some sense, it is specific to the
reuse of soft components and its interactions, which are
intensively tested in a wide variety of situations. With an
158 Feng Liang
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
example, the rapid reconfiguration of logistics informa-
tion system based on soft components technology is certi-
fied to be a useful method to reconfigure new systems
rapidly and flexibly, which decreases the development
cost and time, and consequently improves the planners’
8. Acknowledgment
The work described in this paper was substantially sup-
ported by a Humanities Science Research Youth Founda-
tion from Nankai University (NkQ07055)
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