Immortal Information and Through-Life Knowledge Management (IITKM): Strategies and Tools for the Emerging Product-Service

  • Mcmahon, Chris A (Principal Investigator)

Project Details

Description

Many engineering companies are today undergoing a paradigm shift from product delivery to through-life service support. The shift applies across a range of different sectors, including defence, civil aerospace and construction. If these sectors are to remain competitive, they require new business, operational and information-system models that extend thirty years or more into future. This proposal is concerned with identifying how products and systems from such sectors can be best designed and supported in the resulting dynamic, network centric, whole-life environment. The research question addressed by the project is to create a scientific base for the creation of a structured, network-enabled information and knowledge environment in which dispersed, multidisciplinary operational teams use sustainable knowledge management (KM) systems to execute effective, timely decisions within evolving engineering life-cycles . The project will comprise three key areas of research.- The first research area will focus on the creation of novel and extended representations of products. These will integrate methods for handling product information (what characteristics should the product have), design-process information (how was the product design arrived at) and design rationale (why has the design been done in this way). These models will allow the recording of design trade-offs, results of negotiation, evidence of decisionmaking and details of successful and unsuccessful designs. The project will also develop integrated approaches to design information organisational structures based on these integrated models and on the need to capture feedback from service experience.- The second research area will be concerned with learning from the product in use. The product life-cycle is itself part of a cycle of development of the information describing the artefact, the commercial, manufacturing and operational systems in which it is embedded, and of the knowledge embedded in the communities that develop, support and use these systems. Research will study the dynamics of this triumvirate of information, knowledge and systems in the context of products being embedded in systems of systems.- The third research area is concerned with creating organisational systems to manage the overall knowledge system life-cycle (KSLC) and the peoplecentric procedures within them. It will investigate the dynamics of knowledge use throughout the life-cycle of complex product-service systems in an extended enterprise context. There will be particular research focus on a) novel procurement frameworks and governance to secure innovative responses from prime contractors and the supply chain b) the human resource development policies necessary to support the shift from product delivery to service provision and c) the role of decision-support models at key decision pinch-points throughout the project life cycle.

Key findings

Many engineering companies are today undergoing a paradigm shift from product delivery to through-life service support. The shift applies across a range of different sectors, including defence, civil aerospace and construction. This research was concerned with identifying how products and systems from such sectors can be best designed and supported in the resulting dynamic, network centric, whole-life environment. The research created a scientific base for the creation of a structured, network-enabled information and knowledge environment in which dispersed, multidisciplinary operational teams use sustainable knowledge management (KM) systems to execute effective, timely decisions within evolving engineering life-cycles. Its contributions were in three key areas:

- The first focused on the creation of novel and extended representations of artefacts, integrating methods for handling product information (what characteristics should the product have), design-process information (how was the product design arrived at) and design rationale (why has the design been done in this way) to allow the recording of design trade-offs, evidence of decision making and details of successful and unsuccessful designs. Supported by a survey of user needs, this was achieved through new systems for the creation of records of synchronous and asynchronous design activities, including enhanced multimedia records of meetings, design transaction records, rationale capture tools and service design models. The project also developed integrated approaches to design information organisation based on faceted classification, Topic Maps and object databases, explored a number of techniques for the automated capture of design records in design work.

- The second area was concerned with learning from the product in use. The product life-cycle is itself part of a cycle of development of the information describing the artefact, the commercial, manufacturing and operational systems in which it is embedded, and of the knowledge embedded in the communities that develop, support and use these systems. Research in this research area took three approaches: firstly, development of tools for the improved organisation and exploitation of information captured during service operations; second, study of the approaches taken by service engineers and characterisation of these approaches and, third, study of methods used by engineers to value information and development of a Bayesian approach to value assignment based on this study.

- The third area was concerned with creating organisational systems to manage the overall knowledge system life-cycle (KSLC) and the people-centric procedures within them. It investigated the dynamics of knowledge use throughout the life-cycle of complex product-service systems in an extended enterprise context, with particular research focus, carried out using qualitative research methods with extensive interviews in collaborating companies, on a) novel procurement frameworks and governance to secure innovative responses from contractors in the supply chain, especially through a study of first- and second-generation private finance initiative projects; b) the human resource development policies necessary to support the shift from product delivery to service provision, though detailed empirical study in collaborative organisations; and c) the role of decision-support models at key decision pinch-points throughout the project life-cycle and a comparison of decision-support approaches in different organisational contexts.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/10/0531/03/09