FORS: A software tool for flexible design

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This paper is a description of FORS (Flexible Organizations), a design environment based on a network representation of the design effort. Each design network consists of: (a) Tools (software programs distributed over the whole network of computers) and (b) Aspects (models to which the tools are applied). The system's communication and exchange of data are based on distributed problem-solving techniques. FORS provides an icon based interface, allows for the dynamic reconfiguration of the design network, maintains libraries of records, tools and aspects, and attempts to develop mechanisms for collaboration between the different tools. The addition and the deletion of tools are relatively easy and the user has the ability to access information and data from previous design efforts. FORS is a new approach to design environments because it gives equal emphasis on the tools and the data used in the design effort. FORS embodies some old ideas, like object-oriented representation of the tools, but simultaneously extends these and creates a modular and flexible environment. One important aspect of FORS is the introduction of the issue of remote effects (the impacts that one design task can have on other tasks). FORS is currently being used in the mechanical design of an automobile window regulator; an implementation in the area of power systems is in progress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-15
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Intelligent Manufacturing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 1991


  • Concurrent design
  • distributed problem-solving
  • flexible organizations
  • object-oriented programming
  • simultaneous engineering


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