Design of distributed information systems for agile manufacturing virtual enterprises using CORBA and STEP standards

Liangyu Zhou, Rakesh Nagi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the global market environment, agile manufacturing companies are forced to cooperate with each other and form temporary opportunistic alliances called virtual enterprises. Each partner may have unique software applications and hardware systems as well as policies and procedures that govern the flow of work. This paper presents a distributed information system architecture for agile manufacturing enterprises such that the heterogeneous partners are seamlessly integrated and, more importantly, their internal processes remain unaffected while enterprise-wide information is kept consistent. The architecture is related to the three-tier information communication model proposed by Song and Nagi (1997). This architecture is advanced for partner heterogeneity by incorporating two standards: (1) Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) for information exchange, and (2) International Standard for the Exchange of Product Data (STEP) for information modeling and mapping. Further proposed, for policy integration, is a workflow manager and a systematic approach to develop composite workflows for the virtual enterprise by wrapping the legacy partner workflows. Petri nets and meta data are used to facilitate the workflow simulation and workflow description, respectively. A prototype system has been developed for demonstration purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-31
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Manufacturing Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Agile manufacturing
  • Common object request broker architecture (CORBA)
  • Information systems
  • Standard for the exchange of product data (STEP)
  • Workflow management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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