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This article presents a case for the construction of a formal classification of manufacturing systems using cladistics, a technique from the biological school of classification. A seven-stage framework for roducing a manufacturing cladogram is presented, along with a pilot case study example. This article describes the role that classification plays in the pure and applied sciences, the social sciences and reviews the status of existing manufacturing classifications. If organisational diversity and organisational change processes are governed by evolutionary mechanisms, studies of organisations based on an evolutionary approach such as cladistics could have potential, because as March [March JG. The evolution of evolution. In: Baum JAC, Singh JV, editors. Evolutionary dynamics of organizations. Oxford University Press, 1994. p. 39±52], page 45, states ``there is natural speculation that organisations, like species can be engineered by understanding the evolutionary processes well enough to intervene and produce competitive organisational effects''. It is suggested that a cladistic study could provide organisations with a ``knowledge map'' of the ecosystem in which they exist and by using this phylogenetic and situational analysis, they could determine coherent and appropriate action for the specification of change.