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In the paper, the problem of modelling and designing of reconfigurable and reusable distributed automation systems is addressed. Such systems are characterized by the distribution of hardware, software, and physical components for the control and automation systems implementation, following the trend to distributed intelligence into the controlled plant and to integrate Information and Communication Technologies into automation systems. Through the help of a case study, the paper investigates advantages and disadvantages of monolithic and distributed design approaches and models, and some available tools and standards are critically compared. A proposal is given of new modelling paradigms able to capture the overall system description, drawn from the on-going European Project TORERO.