The need for standardized representations of product information which are suitable for electronic communication between engineering and manufacturing functions is well documented [Mas95]. A single international standard, ISO 10303 -- Product data representation and exchange, has been designed to meet this need. This standard is more commonly referred to as STEP (Standard for the Exchange of Product model data). The STEP standard is seen by many as the means by which multiple tiers of a supply chain can communicate evolving technical descriptions of products. A number of questions must be answered, however, before industry can be expected to adopt the STEP standard. When will implementations of STEP be production ready? Are commercial systems STEP compliant? How will companies use STEP? Does the standard support my company's needs and the applications my company uses? The Automotive Industry Action Group is addressing these and other similar questions in an implementation pilot project called AutoSTEP [Phe96]
The purpose of the AutoSTEP project is to introduce STEP [Mit96, ISO1] to the automotive industry,ensure that STEP development meets the needs of industry, and determine what the benefits the automotive industry can derived from using the standard. The project is made up of representatives from automobile manufacturers, suppliers, computer-aided design system vendors, standards organizations, and government research organizations. In the first phase of the project, completed in February, 1996, participants were trained in STEP technology, a pilot infrastructure was established, improvements were identified for CAD vendors,and successful exchanges of solid primitives and some production parts were achieved.