Research is needed on methods for designing factories and their information systems so that the maximum number of different products can be produced efficiently or so that products can be produced and made available to customers in the shortest possible time. Such work has implications for military preparedness in today’s environment of more prototypes and fewer production runs.
Research is needed to develop the capabilities required for rapid reconfiguration of production processes. Many of these capabilities depend on software systems, networks, and interfaces. Important areas include dynamic scheduling (including supporting, modeling, and analysis tools), intelligent routing, and other systems to support rapid reconfiguration.
Research is needed to advance the level of process automation, including more automated responses to problems and greater ease of interconnection of factory equipment. The achievement of open architecture control systems would contribute to both the interconnection of factory equipment and enterprise integration.
Research is needed to extend and enhance the information infrastructure supporting manufacturing enterprises, including both the internal infrastructure used by all parts of the enterprise and the external infrastructure that increasingly links an enterprise to its suppliers, partners, and customers. The use of networks by all kinds of personnel and of equipment to exchange all kinds of data (text, numeric, graphic, and video) calls for high bandwidth; greater dependability and security; greater support for real-time communication, monitoring, and control; and better interoperability (through architectures, standards, and interfaces) for component systems and networks of different types. Achieving a greater ease of interconnection is essential; attaching equipment and subsystems to a factory information system should be as easy as plugging household appliances into outlets, at least in principle. Beyond better network-related facilities there is a need for better technology for the exchange of information, information services to support integration of applications, and standard representations, protocols, libraries, and query languages.
This preliminary report provides a detailed overview of these and complementary recommendations, which are presented according to a framework that is consistent with that of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Initiative of the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology. A final report by the committee will address more fully several of the issues presented here.