Computer-aided process planning is a link between design and manufacturing in a computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) environment. Commonly used by manufacturing engineers, CAPP can be used to develop a product manufacturing plan based on projected variables such as cost, lead times, equipment availability, production volumes, potential material substitution routings and testing requirements.
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The process-planning problem comes out as a rigid hierarchical structure of tasks where the lowest levels are well-defined tasks, such as determination of machine and cutting parameters, while the top levels control, coordinate and manage the entire system. Such a top-down manner of coordination makes it a tightly coupled distributed decision-making situation. The complexity of CIM systems with hierarchical structures grows rapidly with the size of the system, making them very expensive. Also, assimilating a large array of knowledge sources to plan the activities is a major hurdle.