An expert system approach is suggested to apply computer technology to a traditional and critical area of shoemaking - that of cutting leather for shoe components. This is a complex area traditionally requiring a high degree of skill and using materials that can account for 40% of the cost of a shoe. The proposal introduces pre-planning to cutting components from a skin of leather, assessment of the resulting lay plan and linking this to the cutting stage. It is based on automatically laying out and interlocking complex pattern pieces for good material utilisation. Account has to be taken of the irregularities of shape and characteristics of leather skins and the requirements of individual components to be cut (production, quality and directional constraints). Interfaces will be developed for inputting this information after assessing appropriate, commercially available, input devices (digitisers, scanners etc.). It is aimed at delivering benefits to shoemakers in terms of cost reduction, improved productivity, consistency, work appeal and improved opportunities for quick response and expanding the application of modern technology. Man/machine interfaces will be improved with a flexible mixture of high technology and enhanced human skills.