funStep© initiative is a repository of information, products and knowledge. Its goal is to encourage and facilitate the adoption of ISO 10303-236 «Industrial automation systems and integration – Product data representation and exchange – Part 236: Application Protocol: Furniture catalogue and interior design» with the support of the different products and services related to it. It provides support for the European furniture industry to lead industrial development and develop the market position of the European furniture industry in a global context.
funStep©, by integrating ICT standards and industry needs, aims to motivate and drive change in the way business is conducted through the development and implementation of e-business/commerce activities. ISO 10303-236 (or AP236) was developed by the funStep partnership (or Interest Group) and its evolution has involved industry consultation and discussions with research technicians and domain experts. Its supporting infra-structure takes into consideration the complexity of managing a global collaborative organisation, industry drivers and concerns that surround the implementation of new IT solutions, as well as the business drivers facing furniture retailers, manufacturers and suppliers.
Whilst a core function of the organisation is to provide technical services and guidance, the reason why people in the furniture industry will use funStep is because of the value that is generated. This value covers a spectrum of issues. The essence of funStep is that it delivers tools, services and guidance connected to a network that creates benefit, reward. Key to this are the fundamental underlying values which funStep© stands for. It provides a range of products and services that enable businesses across the furniture value change to become compliant with and implement ICT standards that will help facilitate greater efficacy across their business operations. It also provides a route for developing new products/service offerings and an access to new markets. By linking in with a community of practice that comprises furniture companies, ICT professionals and R&D organisations funStep© enables SMEs to develop their businesses at reduced risk through a supporting network.
funStep© solutions provide services for a number of clearly defined markets or groups of people, and these are:
Furniture supply chain
- Retailers, contract, designers…
- Raw material suppliers
- Software houses
- Service providers
- Local and National Governments
- European Commission
Research & Business Development
- Trade organizations
- Research organizations
funStep© does not purport to provide a quick ready fix solution to the lack of industry engagement in SMEs applying new technology. But it does provide an infrastructure and some core products and services that enable the improvement of the businesses processes across the supply. It is recognised that standards are a key issue to a prosperous society. Standards simplify communication and enable repeatability which leads to cost reduction. Figure 1, below, illustrates the development of the various steps leading to the creation of ISO 10303-236 as the standard that facilitates and enables interoperability in the world wide furniture industry as well as the products and services related to it. It also shows the basis of the funStep© community and builds on a range of experiences and competencies. funStep© builds on its history. Moving from a development environment the future is focused on engagement, implementation and continual development.
One of the main benefits of funStep© is that its services enable businesses in the furniture industry to work faster using standards and not proprietary solutions; thus giving SMEs the possibility to move more efficiently and cost-effectively. funStep© initiative is focused in interoperability issues trying to solve the gap for a clear communication within the supply chain through Information Communication Technology (ICT), which helps facilitate new ways of working enabling better integration of business process within SMEs organisations and with external business partners. They need to be encouraged to work in cooperation and develop sustainable business partnerships.