Page 13

mathematics, mechanical and electrical engineering, industrial engineering, computer science and engineering, chemistry, and materials science but also in the "softer" sciences of sociology, psychology, management science, and economics. Even though these separate disciplines are individually supported by funding agencies and universities, there is a lack of focused attention on how to integrate basic knowledge from many disciplines into knowledge that furthers manufacturing goals.

Information Technology and the Increasing
Complexity of Manufacturing

At the same time that this lack of strategy is apparent, all dimensions of manufacturing (e.g., products, markets, processes) are becoming more complex, diverse, and international. Indeed, common products such as automobiles can have thousands of parts, and modern aircraft and integrated circuits include millions of parts or active elements. Each of these products takes years to design, requiring the effort of hundreds or even thousands of people worldwide. Complex new products based on information content and their accompanying information-dominated design and manufacturing methods already require us to deal with entirely new scales of complexity.1 Some products require such levels of precision, delicacy, or cleanliness that people can no longer make or assemble the parts; in some cases, they cannot even see them.

To realize these and other products, manufacturing firms must cope with design processes (e.g., converting customer requirements and expectations into engineering specifications, converting specifications into subsystems), production processes (e.g., moving materials, converting material properties or shapes, assembling products or subsystems, verifying process results), and business practices (e.g., converting a customer order into a list of required parts, cost accounting, and documentation of procedures). The illustration on the cover indicates the relationships among these various elements of manufacturing and the role of information technology (IT; Box 1.1) in integrating them (see also Figure 1.1). By providing ways to facilitate and manage the complexity of these information-intensive processes, as well as to achieve integration of manufacturing activities within and among manufacturing enterprises, information technology will play an increasingly indispensable role in supporting and even enabling the complex

1 A case in point is very large scale integrated (VLSI) chips. A single VLSI chip may have several million transistors with submicron feature sizes. A complex system may have hundreds of chips and tens of millions of transistors. Logic design, functional tests, fault tests, timing, placement, and wiring data run to gigabytes per chip. Validation of a design may involve many millions of simulated test cases. Finally, different aspects of chip design are coupled, so that changes required in the logic design (for example) often affect the analysis of derived fault, timing, and place and wire views of the logic. Similar observations apply to airplanes, ships, and cars.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement