Simplifying knowledge systems to boost European competitiveness The competitiveness of industrial design is strongly influenced by the effectiveness of process planning; computational methods for modelling the structure, functionality and behaviour of mechanical devices. Knowledge systems seek to utilize effective programmes such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to augment their production line by cutting down on design time and costs Digital Economy © PhotoDisc An integral part of a competitive product's success lies in simplifying the stage of process planning, in itself a complex and information detailed phase. With such a goal in mind Knowledge Aided Process Planning and Estimation System (KAPES) has sought to make it possible for non-engineers to produce process plans and detailed cost-time estimates regarding the manufacture of parts, assemblies and sub-assemblies in the sheet metal, machining and plastics industries. The end result of such an up-to-date knowledge system is aimed at producing final process plans of a higher quality, in shorter time and hence, at lower cost. It is also planned that KAPES will be fully compatible with adjacent systems like CAD and MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning). Another powerful feature to be amalgamated into the programme is the ability of the software to ‘learn' simply by applying information pertaining to already attained results. And finally, the system will incorporate effective feature based modelling through STEP processes utilising the extensive Information Technology Reference Model (ITRM) initiated under the AIT pilot phase. So far, results are encouraging, showing that the work done has been quite successful, with the additional bonus of KAPES capable of reading ASCII files generated by another application such as Visual Basic or CAD. The consortium of industries involved seek to undertake further research in order to finalise their product.