Towards a formal manufacturing reference ontology

Due to the advancement in the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), manufacturing industry and its many domains employ a wide range of different ICT tools. To be competitive, industries need to communicate effectively within and across their many system domains. This communication is hindered by the diversity in the semantics of concepts and information structures of these different domain systems. Whilst international standards provide an effective route to information sharing within narrowly specified domains, they are themselves not interoperable across the wide range of application domains needed to support manufacturing industry due to the inconsistency of concept semantics. Formal ontologies have shown promise in removing interpretation problems by computationally capturing the semantics of concepts, ensuring their consistency and thus providing a verifiable and shared understanding across multiple domains. The research work reported in this paper contributes to the development of formal reference ontology for manufacturing, which is envisaged as a key component in future interoperable manufacturing systems. A set of core manufacturing concepts are identified and their semantics have been captured in formal logic based on exploiting and extending existing standards definitions, where possible combined with an industrial investigation of the concepts required. A successful experimental investigation has been conducted to verify the application of the ontology based on the interaction between concepts in the design and manufacturing domains of an aerospace component.