A long-awaited method of linking steps of the manufacturing process - one that eliminates waste and boosts productivity - is ready for the marketplace.

Dell K. Allen, Brigham Young University professor of manufacturing technology, said researchers believe "this is the world's first totally integrated data base that supports all activities within the manufacturing enterprise, including business, engineering and marketing."Allen is principal researcher for the Utah Parts-on-Demand System (PODS) program, which is supported by a Utah Center of Excellence grant and by private matching grants.

"Our concept of using a central information system is unique. We've developed a manufacturing system in which small factories can be located in rural communities to produce parts on demand. It's an important new way to build factories that are more efficient, instead of depending on a piecemeal approach."

At the heart of Allen's project is a central information system that provides technical support to factory production sites located far from the center.

Setting up small factories (three to 12 employees) around the state would be cost-effective if the PODS program is used, Allen said, because each factory would be linked by computer to the main business center. High overhead costs would be eliminated; each factory would make parts only on demand; and essential business, engineering and marketing decisions would all be made based on information housed in accessible computer programs.

Each factory would only manufacture parts assigned to a particular "family" and would receive its working instructions from the information center.

Business decisions would be determined in conjunction with the needs of a specific buyer, thereby reducing the risk of building unnecessary inventory.

PODS first customer is the U.S. Army, which expects to soon set up a system at a turbine engine plant located in Stratford, Conn.

Allen said he expects to establish a PODS site at Winding Technology Inc. in Springville. The company's president, Raleigh Huntsman, anticipates using the system to manufacture a part used in the F-16 fighter jet.