Conbributed by the Engineering Informatics (EIX) Committee for publication in the JOURNAL OF COMPUTING AND INFORMATION SCIENCE IN ENGINEERING. Manuscript received Jan. 2001; revised manuscript received Aug. 2001. Associate Editor: S. Urban.

Collaboration between multiple organizations and companies is becoming commonplace for the design and manufacture of large, complex, mechanical systems. These systems include such things as airframes, automobiles and ships. Virtual enterprise is a term often used to describe such collaborations when the participating organizations are distributed over large geographic areas and come from multiple independent companies. A VE allows its member organizations to respond collectively to favorable market conditions for new product development in situations where the members individually would be unable to respond effectively.

As part of the collaboration, the members of a VE share their expertise, software tools, and product data. This sharing of resources provides a competitive advantage for the VE that justifies its...

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