Flexible production systems are necessary to sustain competitiveness. The bottleneck in the plant development process is often the commissioning. The more often the production systems have to adapt to new situations, the proportion of commissioning on the total time increases. Furthermore, with an increasing proportion of software technology, the uncertainty during this phase also increases. An approach to reduce the risk is the virtual commissioning. Here, the control program test takes place at an early stage on a model of the production system. A major disadvantage is the effort for the modelling. To improve the effort-effectiveness ratio of the models, they can be reused in future projects, and/or used from the beginning of the plant development process.This thesis describes a design framework for the virtual commissioning of automated production systems. The design framework consists of a procedure model, methods and tools, and a technique for the integrative description of production system concepts (CONSENS). The procedure model describes the activities of the plant development process in detail. It also controls the use of the method and tools, e.g. the early consid-eration of testing scenarios, the modularisation of the system, and selection of a suitable modelling depth. The application of the design framework is demonstrated on a material flow system.