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Linda Ann Riley Leon Cox
Department of Industrial Engineering Department of Engineering Technology
New Mexico State University Department of Industrial Engineering
New Mexico State University


What company wouldn't want to be known as practicing a "CIM" philosophy? Conceptually, a

company adopting computer integrated manufacturing practices suggests a forward-looking,
innovative and technologically advanced operation. However in reality, CIM is neither
appropriate nor cost-effective for many manufacturing entities. One of the greatest challenges to
organizational diffusion of a CIM philosophy is the multi-dimensionality of the CIM construct.
Just when is a company practicing CIM? What constitutes adoption? What type of metrics can
accurately measure diffusion and CIM success? This paper overviews the challenges and
barriers to CIM implementation. It investigates processes, operations, industries and situations
that are most suitable for CIM applications, as well as those less so. Last, this paper presents a
worksheet for conceptually assisting managers and engineers in making a CIM adoption


Ask twenty engineers, twenty managers and twenty information technology specialists to define
the concept of CIM, and you'll get sixty different answers. Computer integrated manufacturing
has been described as everything from an intangible philosophy to a specific CNC program.
Further complicating the process of arriving at a consensus for the conceptualization of the term,
is the issue of where in the organization CIM resides. Is it a management tool, a planning tool? Is
it a production floor activity? Or does CIM somehow fit into an enterprise resource planning
(ERP) model?

Articles, academic studies and practitioner reports abound which attempt to provide CIM with
some context. Some of these definitions involve a phased or dimensional quality. For example,
Johansen et al. define CIM to include: "1. Factory communication hardware and software; 2.
Data management, including collection, storage, and retrieval; and 3. Applications software and
hardware, including material planning and control, quality systems, inspection and vision,
computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), and computer aided process
planning/computer-aided engineering (CAPP/CAE)." [1] Others such as Weston, suggest that
CIM consists of three dimensions; the engineering dimension which involves CAD/CAM and
CAPP activities; the networking and systems dimension; and the continuous improvement
dimension encompassing areas such as MRP II, TQM, JIT and theory of constraints (TOC) [2].

Still others see CIM as an integration tool, a tool which uses information and automation
hardware and software for production control and management [3]. This school of thought views
CIM as a total integrative tool for the organization, one which has the ability to increase
productivity, quality and competitive advantage. Another organizational perspective of CIM is
that of a "management technology that makes feasible the fully-automated factory-of-the-future."
[4] With this perspective, CIM allows the organization to fully integrate and control all design
and manufacturing functions.

Industry specific definitions of CIM also are prevalent in the literature. The print industry for
one, has adopted certain CIM principles such as electronic data interchange (EDI); digital
linkage of users and suppliers; and automation in the production and binding steps to move the
industry from a labor intensive position to one of greater automation [5,6]. The machine tool
industry is another industry frequently cited as practicing certain CIM concepts such as CAD,
CAPP, CAM and MRPII [7]. For industry specific definitions, it appears that CIM provides a
vast menu of possibilities for an organization. From this list of possibilities, decision makers
select various processes, hardware and software which are then adapted to specific industry

Another emerging trend in CIM literature involves product data management (PDM) systems. In
today's manufacturing environments, the need for PDM is paramount because product
technology is changing so rapidly. In addition to PDM, the database management system, (for
example, an Oracle system), must be capable of integration with a particular network protocol,
(TCP-IP, for example). This integration is essential for the development, delivery and support of
object-oriented client/server business-critical documents. For successful CIM installation, PDM
cannot be overlooked because it is, in reality, the backbone of data management in a CIM
environment [8].



If a company uses a CAD program, is it CIM-savvy? How about a JIT system? Or TQM
standards? At what point does a company move from a non-CIM position to one that
encompasses a CIM philosophy? Can this movement be measured by the number of hard or soft
technologies the company adopts? Or is the complete integration of only one CIM tool a better
measure of a company practicing the CIM philosophy? Is a company a CIM company if the CEO
has said it so?

One of the most difficult aspects in studying companies that have adopted CIM, is that there is
no one right answer to any of the above questions. Can we use the same metrics and evaluation
tools to compare a printing company with a tool shop when defining the practice of CIM?
Alternatively, can we similarly judge a major aerospace corporation with a small paper mill?
There is no definitive answer with respect to defining the practice and integration of a
philosophy in a company. What one company may see as technologically advanced and CIM
oriented, another may see as historically dated.

Unfortunately, most studies to this point have attempted to describe the company use of CIM as
measured by indices. Johansen and group for one, gauged the integration of CIM in
manufacturing organizations by creating indices that measured areas such as automation level;
number of CIM technologies in use; and number of organizational functions affected by CIM
integration [9].

Of late, there is also a body of research which suggests that there are human and organizational
features of CIM. This research brings systems' behavior into the CIM picture. In some cases it is
suggested that for CIM to be successfully implemented in an organization, strong leadership is a
prerequisite. In other cases, CIM is seen as initiated by individuals at a shop floor level in
response to immediate needs. These situations point to an adoption of CIM, initiated by
individuals, as a response to system requirements.

Regardless of how the CIM philosophy is measured, it is clear that the identical set of metrics or
heuristics cannot be applied to all companies collectively. Perhaps the very nature of the word
"philosophy" prescribes a somewhat nebulous, yet unique conceptualization of CIM.


Probably the greatest barrier to CIM implementation is defining what exactly constitutes
implementation. Very broadly defined, CIM includes a range of technologies which improve
operational effectiveness and efficiency. More specifically defined, the implementation of CIM
should address some organizational need such as faster time to market; reduced lead times; lower
labor costs; or productivity improvements. Inherent in the implementation of CIM are defined
metrics which allow the user to assess whether or not organizational needs are being met. CIM
should never be implemented for the sake of following your competitor, following the industry,
or following the latest organizational fad. If the implementation cannot be cost or otherwise
rationalized, how can the decision ultimately be supported?

While there exists a number of case studies and testimonials singing the praises of CIM, it is far
more difficult to find acknowledged examples of CIM failures in companies. One such study that
does suggest that CIM is overrated is reported in IIE Solutions and was conducted by Abraham
Seidmann from the University of Rochester [10]. The study reports that CIM has not lived up to
its expectations in terms of anticipated returns. Seidman reports that this is primarily due to a
perception that top management in the organization is not convinced of CIM's benefits. Without
the backing of key decision-makers, corporate coffers will probably stay closed to CIM.

In other examples, some suggest that small companies are not appropriate venues for CIM
implementation. Due to the considerable investmentand risk associated with implementation of
CIM tools and methods, the small company cannot justify its adoption [11].


In making a CIM adoption decision, a number of different questions and parties should be
involved in the planning and implementation process. The following table proposes a number of
issues for consideration to start the planning process.

ï !c  
  c     c     
For example: shorter order to delivery time; faster
1. What need, challenge or
product development; responsiveness to customers;
problem are you responding to in
greater quality levels; better management; need for
the organization?
organizational integration; etc.
2. Where is this problem located? Primary area Secondary area
3. What are the implications of not
addressing the problem/challenge?
4. What are the needs of each
different department involved with Department Needs
the problem/challenge?
5. What definition is our
organization willing to accept for
6. What exact CIM tools or
List CIM tools and Who are the vendors? Who
methods can respond to this
methods provides solutions?
7. What is the cost of
implementing CIM? Are there
different costs for different levels
of implementation?
Vendor 1:
8. Who has provided the cost data
for implementing CIM? Vendor 2:
(Reference documents of vendors)
Vendor 3:
9. What is the anticipated return
for the implementation of CIM for Economic justification Non-economic justification
the overall organization?
10. What is the anticipated return
for the implementation of CIM for
Economic justification Non-economic justification
individual departments involved in
the CIM implementation decision?
11. What are the responsibilities
Departments involved in Departments involved in
for individual departments in
deciding on CIM package - implementing the CIM
deciding on, and implementing the
responsibilities package- responsibilities
CIM decision?
12. What is the timeline for
Reference a CIM planning document
implementing CIM?
13. Who in the organization needs Individual Department Contact
to sign onto the CIM
implementation decision? Number
14. What actions will be taken to
assure that all individuals needed
to sign on to the CIM decision
have the proper information for
supporting the project?
15. How will you know if the CIM What type of metrics will
Over what time period?
implementation is successful? measure success?
16. How long will you give the
If a failure, what do you What are your contingency
new system before determining it
propose to do? plans?
a success or failure?
17. What actions and plans will be
taken to promote the CIM
implementation success?
18. Future thoughts for further
CIM implementation.
19. Define you CIM solution
Compile the project implementation document

Adopting CIM requires the consensus of a number of organizational departments and decision
makers. Since it is proposed that the construct of CIM is defined differently for each firm, a
unique CIM solution package is proposed which will provide a roadmap for implementation. The
preceding worksheet provides a beginning step in assisting those individuals involved with
constructing the CIM solution package. Furthermore, the worksheet helps to define what form
CIM will take, and consequently, what benefits it ultimately will provide to the organization and
individual departments.


[1] Johansen, J., Karmarkar, U., Nanda, D., Seidmann, A., "Computer Integrated Manufacturing:
Empirical Implications for Industrial Information Systems," Journal of Management Information
Systems, Volume 12, Issue 2 (Fall 1995) pp. 59-70.

[2] Weston, F.C., "Three Dimensions of CIM," Production and Inventory Management Journal,"
Volume 35, Issue 1, First Quarter, (1994) pp. 59-64.

[3] See: Gould, L., "CIM is Easier than Ever," Systems Integration, (December, 1989) pp: 54-59.
[ul>Groves, C., " Hands Off Manufacturing Transcends Limits of CIM," Industrial Engineering,
(August, 1990) pp: 29-31.

[4] Zachary, W., Richman, E., "Building an Operations Management Foundation That Will
Last," IIE Solutions, Volume 25, Issue 8; pp: 39-46.

[5] Lamparter, W., "The Next Revolution?" American Printer, Volume 217, Issue 1; (April,
1996) pp: 34-41.

[6] Lamparter, W., "CIM for Print," American Printer, Volume 219, Issue 6; (September 1997)
pp: 48-53.

[7] Aronson, R., "Lead Winners Find CIM is Key to Improvement," Manufacturing Engineering,
Volume 115, Issue 5; (November 1995) pp: 3-69.

[8] Anonymous, "PDM Decisions-98," e-series document: found at

[9] Johansen, J., Karmarkar, U., Nanda U., Seidmann, A., "Computer Integrated Manufacturing:
Empirical Implications for Industrial Information Systems," Journal of Management Information
Systems, Volume 12, Issue 2 (Fall 1995) pp. 59-70.

[10] Anonymous, "Computer-Integrated Manufacturing: An Opportunity Missed," IIE Solutions,

Volume 27, Issue 8, (August 1995) pp. 8-9.

[11] Samadhi, T., Ari, M., Hoang, K., "Shared Computer-Integrated Manufacturing for Various
Types of Production Environment," International Journal of Operations & Production
Management, Volume 15, Issue 5, (1995) pp. 95-109.