An On Line Tipsheet For More Efficient Factories

An information highway tailored to helping manufacturers do it better, cheaper, faster moved closer to reality in late January, when the Defense Dept.'s Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded a $9.8 million contract to Microelectronics & Computer Technology Corp. (MCC), a consortium based in Austin, Tex. MCC will develop the Agile Manufacturing Information Infrastructure (AMII) as part of an ARPA program, launched in 1990, to bolster U.S. industry by helping companies adopt the latest manufacturing knowhow.

Small and midsize producers are the main focus of the ongoing ARPA program, called Manufacturing Automation & Design Engineering, or MADE. The first phase worked on standards to make it easier to exploit new technologies across company boundaries, in so-called concurrent engineering projects. The AMII network will facilitate more such "electronic commerce," including on-line strategic partnerships among suppliers and manufacturers. AMII's participants will also have links to the Manufacturing Technology Centers and Manufacturing Outreach Centers sponsored by the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

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