Networked Production: Computer-integrated Manufacturing

Computer-integrated manufacturing, or CIM for short, stands for computer-controlled machine and automation systems, which are generally used in the manufacture of products. CIM uses different technologies and their technical functions such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Aided Planning (CAP), Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and Computer-Aided Quality Assurance (CAQ). The combination of different sub-technologies reduces manual work steps and automates repetitive tasks. The goal of CIM was and is a continuous computer-supported information processing based on a so-called cross-functional database*.

In 1973 Joseph Harrington introduced the concept of computer-integrated manufacturing to the public. In this way, the automation expert wanted to draw attention to the possibility of linking information within machine manufacturing and to bring together isolated applications (for example CAD, CAP, CAM, CAQ). See also ‘possible components of CIM’. Nowadays, one speaks of an amalgamation or a manufacturing approach that is basically based on the complete automation of production. The production can take place across companies.

According to Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Gausemeier, Heinz Nixdorf Institute – University of Paderborn, three main business processes result from this functional view:

Important: Especially the manufacturing process is supported by so-called numerically controlled work systems (hardware), in contrast to the software-typical solutions for the processes around product creation and order processing. These include CNC machines, industrial robots and programmable logic controllers (PLC).

Possible components of computer-integrated manufacturing

  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD) – Construction Drawing
  • Prototype production
  • Computer-Aided Planning (CAP) – information / data for the production of parts and assembly instructions
  • Ordering the materials necessary for the production process
  • Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) – computer-aided manufacturing of products with the help of numerical control systems (machine control)
  • Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) – Transmits the design data (NC code) to the CNC machine in electronic form
  • Computer-Aided Quality Assurance (CAQ)
  • Production Planning and Control (PPC)
  • Production data acquisition (PDA) – database / databases for all required order data, personnel data, machine data and process data

Important: An additional component of the collective term Computer-integrated Manufacturing can be the determination of the most efficient manufacturing method by calculating costs and taking into account production methods, product quantity, storage and distribution.

Advantages of the CIM idea

At the beginning of digitization, the above-mentioned CIM components were mostly used as isolated solutions for specific problems – the components could not be used across departments or companies. Especially the data exchange between the different systems was done manually and by external data carriers (disk, magnetic tapes). Slow and error-prone process steps were the result. These shortcomings gave rise to the demand to create a common database for all departments and machines involved in the product development process, based on Joseph Harrington’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing concept.

Thanks to the technical possibilities and networking available today, linking data and machines equally increase the speed of the production process and automate it with the help of sensors and control loops. Advantages: Multiple manual data entry is prevented; the number of possible sources of error is reduced, data consistency and its up-to-dateness are ensured.


CIM is a combination of various applications and technologies such as CAD, CAM, manufacturing robotics, manufacturing resource planning and enterprise management solutions. It can also be seen as an integration of all company operations that work with a common data repository and ultimately aim for industrial, computerized and automated machine manufacturing.

* Abramovici, Schulte 2004, p. 5 / Enzyklopaedie der Wirtschaftsinformatik

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