The survival of traditional factories (especially manufacturing SMEs) within the global economy, with productivity pressures, scarce resources and capabilities, relies on their ability to embrace new ideas and new organizational forms and to imagine new ways of delivering value to customers, new approaches to collaborating with suppliers. Eliminating the barriers to make possible the new paradigm “design anywhere, build anywhere” is a crucial challenge for manufacturing industry to gain competitiveness in the new emerging markets, and to better cooperate (and not only to compete) with low-wage countries. Information Technology plays a strategic role and the unbundling of modern global enterprise depends on the connection of machinery over the internet and the ubiquitous behaviour of machines-tools. Full interoperability towards digital factory and extended manufacturing process opens up new perspectives of collaboration between OEM firms and their suppliers. STEP-NC is being identified as the main enabling “IT bus” for manufacturing industry and is driving the opportunity for change towards the targets of digital, adaptive, networking, and knowledge-based manufacturing for the factory of the future. The higher information level provided by STEP-NC allows the development of a new breed of intelligent (holonic) controllers, capable to be self-adaptive and autonomous to meet the manufacturing requirements to deliver the final part as requested by the customer. This paper starts to describe the results achieved within the previous projects for the definition of the STEP-NC feature-based data model and standard and envisions new crucial developments for a breakthrough vertically integrated paradigm of the whole manufacturing process.
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