LPA Application Brief #7

ApplicationShift Allocation
CompanyShibutzit Software Development

"It's much easier to develop and debug complex algorithms in this language"

Shibutzit is an Israeli company which develops and markets knowledge-based resource allocation, time-tabling, and scheduling systems. Its latest product is Toranit, which Shibutzit describes as a worker allocation system. The system is used for rostering shifts under a number of user definable rules and constraints.

The main strength of the software is its flexibility says the company. Rule templates are used to describe how people should be selected. Workers are classified by what activities they can perform and how qualified they are to carry them out.

Given this basic foundation it is easy to see how a hospital might be staffed and scheduled so that the shifts are fair, and the skill and experts deployed efficiently. Shibutzit says that Toranit can do all this efficiently, and allow its clients to modify schedules, generate different solutions that all conform to the rules, constraints, and classifications.

Dr Edhu Gudes, the marketing director of Shibutzit Software Development, is clear on the need for this product. "People are doing it without a computer, but they are pulling out their hair. It has to be done once or twice a week, and the results are often far from satisfactory. "The scheduling engine for the system was developed and implemented in LPA Prolog Professional, then later moved over to WIN-PROLOG to take advantage of the Windows interface.

Despite these complications, the KBS engine was completed and ported within around three-person years. The interface, which is built in C, soaked up the remaining five-person years of development and implementation time. Dr Gudes sees no particular revelation in using Prolog for engineering such systems, he says the benefits are well documented. "It's much easier to develop and debug complex algorithms in this language."

Shibutzit chose LPA Prolog for two main reasons. "It was very close in syntax and concept to the Prologs on Unix, such as Quintus, which we had a lot of experience with. It also had a migration path to Windows."

Though Dr Gudes declines to use terms like revolutionary or ground breaking, he says that the system makes use of a number of new techniques. "It uses some new methodological ideas from resource allocation, and it integrates rule-based technology with Microsoft's Windows.

Shibutzit believes that by using WIN-PROLOG, it can develop robust and flexible products that the market needs, within a reasonable time frame.

The system has been well received in Israel and Shibutzit has recently sold a system abroad: "We have signed a contract with a company in Paris that operates a major tourist attraction," said Dr Gudes.

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