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products and processes (e.g., converting customer requirements and expectations into engineering specifications, converting specifications into subsystems), production (e.g., moving materials, converting or transforming material properties or shapes, assembling systems or subsystems, verifying process results), and manufacturing-related business practices (e.g., converting a customer order into a list of required parts, cost accounting, and documenting of all procedures). This report also discusses the need for non-technology research to better understand human resource and other non-technical aspects of manufacturing.

The Potential Of Information Technology
In Manufacturing

An enormous amount of information is generated and used during the design, manufacture, and use of a product to satisfy customer needs and to meet environmental requirements. Thus it is reasonable to suppose that the use of information technology can enable substantial improvements in the operation, organization, and effectiveness of information-intensive manufacturing processes and activities, largely by facilitating their integration (Figure ES.1). Equipment and stations within factories, entire manufacturing enterprises, and networks of suppliers, partners, and customers located throughout the world can be more effectively connected and integrated through the use of information technology.

Information technology can provide the tools to help enterprises achieve goals widely regarded as critical to the future of manufacturing, including:

Rapid shifts in production from one product to another;

Faster implementation of new concepts in products;

Faster delivery of products to customers;

More intimate and detailed interactions with customers;

Fuller utilization of capital and human resources;

Streamlining of operations to focus on essential business needs; and

Elimination of unnecessary, redundant, or wasteful activities.

The development and implementation of new information technology to meet these goals will be shaped by organizational, managerial, and human resource concerns that have prevented manufacturers from exploiting fully even the technology that exists today. Sensitivity to these concerns will be essential to the successful development and implementation of the information technology associated with visions of manufacturing for the 21st century.

Information technology can be used to meet a range of needs of manufacturing decision makers (Box ES.1). These needs suggest a research agenda with both technological and non-technological dimensions; the primary targets of this research agenda include:

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