- Group technology
- CAPP (Computer Aided Process Planning)
- Data-driven management info systems
- Factory scheduling tools
Equipment interoperability addresses the ability of entire factories to be connected, to share designs and information, and to optimize the manufacturing process. It can also allow sharing between different companies involved in the manufacturing process.
As such, it shares the contributions to the future as outlined above for CIM, upon which it depends. In terms of specific technologies, this sub-area includes the CAPP and factory scheduling tools that allow organizational optimization. It also includes the information systems needed to tie together disparate manufacturing operations.
The full contributions of CIM and equipment interoperability can only be captured when the organizations adopt a management method appropriate to their flexibility. This method can be called "lean" or, as in the Defense Technology Plan, Advanced Manufacturing Processes. In a sense, this managerial method is the most important application of these technologies.
Together, equipment interoperability, CIM support software, intelligent processing equipment, and the advanced manufacturing processes are important to the health of much of the U.S. manufacturing industry, and thus important to economic growth and national security.
A worldwide movement is underway to standardize factory automation computer data with a focus on CAD/CAM/CAE information. The emerging international standard is called the Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data (STEP), and nearly all manufacturers recognize it as the future protocol for data transfer/translation in industry. Because of its probable impact on worldwide manufacturing, both Japan and Europe are actively contributing to the formation and structure of STEP.