An integrated framework used to integrate the four major diverse CIM (computer integrated manufacturing) data bases in the manufacturing environment is presented: namely, design, planning, manufacturing and accounting data bases. The framework consists of the existing four data bases along with their data base management systems (DBMSs), a knowledge-based system for each DB that integrates the local DBMS with the global system, a global manager that coordinates the entire integration effort, and a natural language (NL) user interface that handles global queries. From a firm's executive suite, the role of the NL user interface is critical for the successful application of the method, hence it is a main focus in the paper. The paper begins with a discussion of the problems of heterogeneous, distinct CIM data bases and presents alternative methods to approach these problems. Then a review of the literature in three related areas-NL interface for data base access, data base integration, and CIM data requirements-is given. Following this is a presentation of the architecture of the total system. Then the detailed design of the NL user interface, which is composed of the DCG (definite clause grammar) parser, the semantic interpreter and the query generator, is then described. Furthermore, an experimental prototype of the NL user interface and a demonstration of how the system handles a global NL query are presented. Finally, the paper concludes with a discussion of future issues in the integration of CIM data bases.
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