The aim of the next generation of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines is to be portable, interoperable and adaptable. Over the years, G-codes (ISO 6983) have been extensively used by the CNC machine tools for part programming and are now considered as a bottleneck for developing next generation of CNC machines. A new standard known as STEP-NC is being developed as the data model for a new breed of CNC machine tools. The data model represents a common standard specifically aimed at the intelligent CNC manufacturing workstation, making the goal of a standardised CNC controller and NC code generation facility a reality. It is believed that CNC machines implementing STEP-NC will be the basis for a more open and adaptable architecture. This paper outlines a futuristic view of STEP-NC to support distributed interoperable intelligent manufacturing through global networking with autonomous manufacturing workstations with STEP compliant data interpretation, intelligent part program generation, diagnostics and maintenance, monitoring and job production scheduling. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.