Developing an activity-based knowledge management system for contractors

Developing an activity-based knowledge management system for contractors

Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781 – 802 Developing an activity-based knowledge management system for contractor...

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Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781 – 802

Developing an activity-based knowledge management system for contractors H. Ping Tserng *, Yu-Cheng Lin Division of Construction Engineering and Management, Department of Civil Engineering, National Taiwan University, No.1 Roosevelt Road, Sec. 4, Taipei, Taiwan

Abstract Knowledge Management (KM) has become an important term in the IT industry. Knowledge management involves creating, securing, capturing, coordinating, combining, retrieving and distributing knowledge. Most know-what, know-how and experience exist only in the minds of individual participants during the construction phase of construction projects. The knowledge can be reused and shared among the engineers and experts involved who participate in projects in order to improve the construction process and reduce the time and cost of solving problems. Sharing and reusing knowledge depends on acquiring and preserving both tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge as the property of a corporation. Effectively using information and web technologies during the construction phase of a project enables knowledge to be captured and managed to the benefit of future projects. This study addresses application of knowledge management to construction projects in the construction phase and proposes a Construction Activity-Based Knowledge Management (ConABKM) concept and system for general contractors. This paper proposes the concept of integrating IDEF (Integrated DEFinition function modeling) modeling methods and provides a prototype used for designing construction knowledge management systems. The ConABKM system is then applied in a case study of a highway construction project; the results demonstrate the effectiveness of sharing knowledge in the construction phase. The combined results demonstrate that by utilizing the latest web technology, knowledge exchange and storage concepts and modes of implementation, a ConABKM system is an effective tool for all experts and engineers participating in the construction phase of a project. D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Keywords: Project management; Knowledge management; Information technology; IDEF

1. Introduction Knowledge is the real asset of a marketing-oriented organization, and its integration across departments and disciplines should be emphasized [1]. Many organizations are now engaged in Knowledge * Corresponding author. Tel.: +886-22364-4154; fax: 88622366-1640. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (H. Ping Tserng), [email protected] (Y.-C. Lin). 0926-5805/$ - see front matter D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2004.05.003

Management (KM) efforts to leverage knowledge both within their organization and externally to the benefit of their stakeholders and customers [2,3]. The reuse of information and knowledge minimizes the need to refer explicitly to past projects, reduces the time and cost of solving problems and improves the quality of solutions during the construction phase of a construction project. If experience and knowledge are shared, then the same or similar problems in construction projects do not need to be repeatedly solved. Reduced problem-solving has the following


H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

advantages; (1) The cost of problem solving is reduced and (2) the probability of repeat problems is decreased. Several enabling activities should be considered to help to achieve the ultimate goal of efficient experience and knowledge reuse; experience and knowledge should be preserved and managed; that is, they should be captured, modeled, stored, retrieved, adapted, evaluated and maintained [4]. The knowledge can be classified as either tacit or explicit. Tacit knowledge is difficult to express and cannot be documented in formal language. Explicit knowledge is that which has been codified and expressed in formal language; it can be represented, stored, shared and effectively applied [5]. The distinction between these two types of knowledge is relevant because each must be managed differently. Knowledge management in the construction phase deals primarily with the process of creating value from knowledge about construction operations, organizations and companies. Valuable knowledge is available in various forms and media, including in the minds of experts, operating procedures, documents, databases, intranets and other entities; however, knowledge management in the construction phase of projects aims to collect and share effectively and systematically the experience and knowledge of projects using webbased and intranet technologies. The latest communication and information technology (i.e., communities of practice and chat rooms) can improve collaboration, coordination and information exchange among organizations that are involved in construction projects [6]. They can be described as a set of information exchange platforms that collect, retrieve, process, store and distribute data to support planning, control, management and decision-making among organizations involved in the project. Wilkins and Barrett [7] proposed a web-based system to explicate the manner in which buildings are assembled, to assist civil engineering students. In a dynamic construction environment, the ability to exchange information from various sources and in different formats becomes crucial to the implementation of the construction processes supported by these systems. Furthermore, the collected data, information and knowledge constitute an important and valuable source to be drawn on in managing construction knowledge. Reusing and updating knowledge improves the execution of future activities and pro-

jects. Most of the data and information used in construction projects are stored in paper documents; they include contracts, specifications, notes, summaries of discussions and field reports. Converting paper documents into electronic versions to be shared and applied in future projects is important and necessary in facilitating information management and supporting the reuse of knowledge. Information and knowledge associated with a project can then be identified as active unit in the project management and preserved in a web-based system that provides the platform for exchanging and storing this information and knowledge.

2. Problem statement Construction projects are complex and time-consuming, which have usually been characterized by their complexity, diversity and the non-standard nature of the production [8]. Whatever successful and unsuccessful projects have been executed by the general contractors, a valuable record of each one should be kept to identify best and worst company practices. During the construction phase of projects, an effective means of improving construction management is to share experiences among engineers, which helps to prevent mistakes that have already been encountered in past projects. Drawing on experience avoids the need to solve problems from scratch: Problems that have already been solved do not need to be solved again. When the engineers and experts complete projects or leave the company, they normally take domain knowledge with them and leave little or nothing that will benefit subsequent projects or the company. From the perspective of knowledge management, this know-how and these experiences of construction engineers and experts are the most valuable because their accumulation depends not only on manpower but also on the spending of much money and time. Edum-Fotwe and McCaffer pointed out [9] professional competency in project management is attained by combining knowledge acquired during training and skills developed through experience as well as the application of the acquired knowledge. Some construction companies had applied the commerce package for knowledge management. However, those systems just deal with the explicit knowledge

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Fig. 1. Problem statements of knowledge management in construction phases of a construction project.



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Fig. 2. Main knowledge sources percentages concerned about construction project-related knowledge.

(document management). The tacit knowledge and experience are still exists in the head of engineers and experts. Therefore, this situation represents a major loss for general contractors who do not preserve the know-how and experiences of senior engineers and experts. Fig. 1 presents statements of knowledge management problems during the construction phase of construction projects. In particular, the problems of formatting documents and electronic storage in tacit and explicit knowledge are illustrated for the research in the construction phase of a project. The development of a survey to obtain data from the Taiwan construction industry on knowledge manage-

ment processes extends a larger study of the current problems of knowledge management. An attempt was made to mail the survey to the managers of the Top 350 construction contractors and the Top 50 engineering firms. Of those 400 surveys, 39 could not be delivered because of changes of address. Of those surveys that reached their destinations, the response rate was 29.6% (108 responses). As part of the larger effort, an attempt is being made to identify the areas of concern regarding knowledge in the construction industry and to develop an appropriate knowledge management process that these organizations can use to understand and implement construction knowledge management. Fig. 2 shows percentages of returned surveys that indicated concern with specified main sources of construction project-related knowledge. Respondents were asked how improved knowledge management would benefit construction projects (see Fig. 3).

3. Research objectives The management of general contractors’ knowledge usually revolves around projects. Knowledge management in the construction phase of a project constitutes a knowledge-intensive organizational context in which knowledge creation is critically important to general contractors. A general contractor may make innovative use of knowledge generated and accumulated through project activities, and share it across related projects to be competitive. Engineers and experts who are involved in projects act as knowledge workers who facilitate the collection and management of knowledge among current and past projects. Therefore, the cap-

Fig. 3. Percentage of perceived benefits to projects through knowledge management.

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Fig. 4. The main framework of knowledge management used in construction projects [21].



H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

ture, transfer, reuse and maintenance of construction project knowledge are necessary [10]. Also, engineers may be provided with previous project experience and assisted to execute future projects [11]. The all abovementioned knowledge and experience mostly are unavailable in the general corporation information system and the in the Internet. Therefore, this study develops a Construction Activity-Based Knowledge Management (ConABKM) system for general contractors, to provide a knowledge exchange and management service in the construction phase of a project, to promote the reuse of domain knowledge and experience in future and current projects. The proposed system can let users just click the related activities of the project and the system will show available activity-related knowledge of clicked activities and link other available similar activities of other projects automatically for users access when users need some past project knowledge. Fig. 4 illustrates the main concepts and framework of knowledge management applied in the construction projects.

knowledge is personal, context-specific knowledge that is difficult to formalize, record or articulate; it is stored in the heads of people [12]. Tiwana [13] explained that tacit knowledge is personal knowledge embedded in individual experience and shared and exchanged through direct, face-to-face contact. In contrast, explicit knowledge is formal knowledge that can be packaged as information. Explicit knowledge can be codified and transmitted in a systematic and formal language. Also, explicit knowledge can be found in the documents of organizations, including reports, articles, manuals, patents, pictures, images, video, audio, software and other forms. It can also be found in organizational documents, such as organizational charts, process maps, mission statements, domains of experience and others. Explicit knowledge is easier to collect and manage during the construction phase of a project because the information and knowledge are available in document form. Document management can preserve and manage information and knowledge without extracting explicit knowledge.

4. Knowledge management in construction phase Fig. 5 shows the concept of knowledge management applied in the construction phase of a project. Knowledge management in construction projects promotes an integrated approach to the creation, capture, accessing and use of a professional’s domain knowledge of products, services and processes. During the construction phase of a project, most project-related problems, solutions, experiences and know-how are in the minds of individual engineers and experts. Implicit knowledge is not normally documented or stored in a system database. Capturing implicit knowledge and making it available as explicit knowledge are important to knowledge management in the construction phase: the reuse of knowledge in other projects and the preservation of such knowledge as corporate property. Experience, problem solving, know-how, know-what and innovation are created or performed in the construction phase of any project. Implementing knowledge management allows tacit knowledge to be reused in other projects, the improvement of operations in the construction phase to be accelerated. Most knowledge content in the construction phase of a project can be classified into two broad categories—tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit

5. Lifecycle of construction knowledge management As Liebowitz and Wilcox [14] point out, knowledge management life cycle includes building knowledge, organizing and holding, distributing and pooling, and applying knowledge to work object. Knowledge management is a framework within which the organization views all its processes as knowledge processing, where all business processes involve creation, dissemination, renewal and application of knowledge toward organizational sustenance and survival [2]. Knowledge management is a discipline of identifying, capturing, retrieving, sharing and evaluating an enterprise’s information assets [15]. KM is newly emerging, interdisciplinary business model dealing with all aspects of knowledge within the context of the firm, including knowledge creating, codification, sharing and how these activities promote learning and innovation [16]. Knowledge management life cycle contains acquiring knowledge, interpreting knowledge and applying knowledge [17]. The following top-level phases and sub-level phases are modified and defined for construction knowledge management according to above-mentioned referen-

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Fig. 5. The concept of knowledge management in the construction phase.

ces. Top-level phases are knowledge acquisition, knowledge extraction, knowledge storage, knowledge sharing and knowledge update (see Table 1). Each sublevel phase is briefly outlined in the following descriptions (see Table 2).

6. Concept of activity-based knowledge management (ABKM) Similar to project scheduling management, knowledge management is based on the concept of under-


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Table 1 Description for top-level phase of construction knowledge management A0


Knowledge Acquisition

Knowledge acquisition is the collection of related data and information, concerning of a typical project. Knowledge extraction is the process of translating data and information into knowledge. Knowledge has been stored under a centralized and safe environment. Knowledge sharing enables the engineer to share the valuable knowledge and information which has stored in the system by using the internet or intranet. The feedback from various users which has put back to the knowledge management system and update the knowledge for reuse.

Knowledge Extraction Knowledge Storage Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge Update

taking activities of project planning and control. Knowledge and information associated with activities in previous projects may be reused and applied in future projects. Information and domain knowledge from all projects are divided and saved as ‘‘activity’’ units in categories related to the projects for collection and management. The main advantage of activitybased knowledge management is the ease with which the information and knowledge can be understood and reapplied. Fig. 6 presents an overview and conceptual framework of activity-based knowledge management used in construction projects. Tacit knowledge refers to the information that is visibly or invisibly related to a part of a knowledge (including experience and know-how); Explicit information is the information that enables or facilitates the execution of particular information, including contracting, drawing, solving problems or approving proposals. By collecting explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge, an activity-based knowledge management system can store information and knowledge among activities. Essentially, the associated information/ knowledge makes the activity-based knowledge management system substantially different from traditional project scheduling systems. Consequently, each activity in the activity-based knowledge management system involves two types of information—explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge records the forms of resources and information as well as statements of experience and domain knowledge

related to each activity of a project. All participants in a project are responsible for providing the information/ knowledge according to their own domain. Any activity integrated information/knowledge requirement that has been noted, will be classified to allow relevant experiences and processes to be recorded. Therefore, the information/knowledge associated with activities can be referred to and reused in other projects. Knowledge is saved in activity units includes both tacit and explicit knowledge. With respect to explicit knowledge, activity-related information or knowledge normally includes specifications/contracts, reports, drawings, change orders and data. Not all activities include information or knowledge because some activities involve project-based information. The information and knowledge that relates to the whole project and cannot be clearly classified into activity units can saved as ‘‘Non-activity’’ category of the project. In contrast, tacit knowledge may include process records, problems faced, problems solved, expert suggestions, know-how, innovations and notes on experience. Information and knowledge is better saved in activity-based units to facilitate classification and searching by users. Moreover, users may search and refer to related information and knowledge from related activities in past projects. The relationships among current and past activities are important in enabling users to associate related information and knowledge. According to Fig. 6, not only can information and knowledge about the current project be applied, but also information and knowledge about the same or similar activities in past projects can be referred to as experiences are recorded. When experts or engineers enter information and knowledge into the system, they need to add relationships among the activities in the project. The system is designed to link same or similar activities automatically and to allow connections to be made manually.

7. IDEF modeling for knowledge management process The concept of integrating IDEF (Integrated DEFinition function modeling) modeling method is proposed and used for designing construction knowledge management systems. An enterprise’s modeling methods, architectures and tools can be

H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802 Table 2 Description for sub-level phase of construction knowledge management Description Knowledge acquisition—A1 Collect Collection of all paper-based and Information electronic documents/information/data. Digital Convert paper-based information/ Information document into digital information. Edit Edit the original digital document/ Information information by adding detail descriptions and comments/notes. Package Attach the related files which is Information contained of descriptions and comments/notes to clarify the explanation or present an example of shared information. Submit Submit a package that includes a Information description and comments/notes and the attached files with photos. Knowledge extraction—A2 Record Operation Record the process information of and Event a construction operating event in a digital format. Edit Edit the description and notes/ Knowledge comments for recording as video and photographs. Manage Collect the grouping meeting records Knowledge and manage the knowledge community. Package Package the description and comments/ Knowledge notes with the attached files that clarify the explanation or provide other examples. Submit Submission of the package that includes Information description and comments/notes and the attached files. Knowledge storage—A3 Approve Approve the Knowledge Package Knowledge knowledge to be processed accurately before being saved in the knowledge bank. Classify Classify knowledge package before it Knowledge stores appropriately in the system. Store Follow by its classification and store the Knowledge knowledge package in the knowledge bank. Backup Back up Knowledge Package from the Knowledge knowledge bank to another database for safety. Publish Publish Knowledge Package for Knowledge auto-distributed within the certain community groups for reuse and application.


Table 2 (continued) Description Knowledge sharing—A4 Search Knowledge Refer Knowledge Modify Knowledge Apply Knowledge Collect Feedback

Knowledge update—A5 Collect Information Renote Knowledge

Repackage Knowledge

Approve Knowledge

Republish Knowledge

Find knowledge/experience by using keywords or a domain expert search. Refer and exam the past knowledge/ experience that has stored in the system. Modify the original knowledge package based on the new projects or other current projects. Apply the modified existing knowledge packages to other projects. Collect the feedback based on the application of original or modified knowledge package.

Collect all paper-based and electronic format of documents/information/data. Note the new or updated description and notes/comments based on the original knowledge package. Repackage the new or update description and comments/notes with attached related files based on the original knowledge package. Approve updated knowledge package to be processed accurately before saving it in the knowledge bank. Republish knowledge package for autodistributed within the certain community groups for reuse and application.

used to support engineering the life cycles of large, complex and changing systems [18]. The IDEF suite of enterprise modeling approaches, consisting IDEF0, IDEF1, IDEF1x, IDEF3 and other graphically based modeling methods having been applied extensively in support of large industrial engineering projects [19]. The information/knowledge contents and processes managed in the system are identified through the IDEF0 function modeling approach. IDEF0 was developed to represent activities or processes that are normally performed in an organized and standardized manner. The IDEF0 definition of a function is a set of activities that takes certain inputs and, using some mechanism, subject to certain controls, transforms those inputs into outputs. Such inputs, controls, outputs and mechanisms (ICOMS) can be used to model relationships among various activities [20].


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Fig. 6. The concept of knowledge management for construction projects.

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The development of construction knowledge management encompasses all activities from ‘‘acquiring knowledge’’ to ‘‘updating knowledge’’. Fig. 7 presents the top-level IDEF0 context diagram to represent the scope of the process. In this study, the context diagram is decomposed into five sub-functions—‘‘knowledge acquisition’’, ‘‘knowledge extraction’’, ‘‘knowledge storage’’, ‘‘knowledge sharing’’ and ‘‘knowledge update’’. Figs. 8– 12 show an IDEF0 diagram that encodes the functional decomposition that corresponds to the ‘‘knowledge acquisition’’, ‘‘knowledge extraction’’, ‘‘knowledge storage’’, ‘‘knowledge sharing’’ and ‘‘knowledge update’’ process respectively.

8. System implementation This section describes in detail the ConABKM system. Fig. 13 illustrates the system architecture.


The server of the ConABKM system supports four distinct layers—interface, access, application and database layers; each has its own responsibilities. The interface layer defines administrative and end-user interfaces. The Users can access information through web browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Administrators can control and manage information via the web browser or using a separate server interface. The access layer provides system security and restricted access, firewall services and system administration functions. The application layer defines various applications for collecting and managing information. These applications offer indexing, full text search, collaborative work and document management functions. The database layer consists of a primary SQL Server 2000 database and a backup database (also based on SQL Server 2000). In order to manage the projects, each project is may classified

Fig. 7. An IDEF0 diagram showing top level of construction knowledge management.


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Fig. 8. An IDEF0 diagram showing the sub-level phase of knowledge acquisition.

by project ID number, project name and project attribute. All project information and knowledge in the ConABKM system is centralized in a system database. Project participants may have access to all or some of these documents through the Internet, as determined by their levels of access authorization. Any information/knowledge about the project can be obtained from and deposited into the system database only through a secure interface. The web and database servers are distributed on different computers, between which a firewall can be built to protect the system database against intrusion. The ConABKM system that is an independent system currently will integrate with corporation enterprise resource planning (ERP) system together in the future. The ConABKM portal services described in this study are made available to all participants of the

corporation through a specially designed portal. The portal is a key element of the proposed system and consists of two content areas—member and knowledge manager areas. The member and knowledge manager are as accessible only by members with passwords. In the project member area, project members can use ConABKM services, such as messaging, accessing information and knowledge. Only project members can access information and knowledge according their authorities. Only knowledge managers can log into the manager area, where they can access all information in the highest server. The knowledge management division of the corporation decides the authorization levels for members (each engineer and expert) based on the project attributes. The members can access the system after the authorization has made. All project-related information and knowledge in the ConABKM system are classified and stored in

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Fig. 9. An IDEF0 diagram showing the sub-level phase of knowledge extraction.

the system database. Different kinds of project information/knowledge are stored in different tables in the system database. Also, these photo and video files are saved in the two positions of the system. One is the project database and another is the corporation multimedia database. In the future, the multimedia database will expand the capacity of database when the number of images being taken increase nonlinearly. In order to indexing those meta-data images, the system is design to let the users to position the related meta-data images into the activity of the project. In other words, users just search the related activities directly and then find those meta-data images effectively. Finally, the ConABKM system backs up all databases in the system to ensure the reliability of data storage. The backup database is in another building to protect it against disasters such as earthquakes or fire.

All functions in the system are briefly outlined in the following descriptions (see Table 3).

9. Case example 9.1. Overview of case study The cases study concerned a highway project in Taiwan. At the time of this research, the bridge had already been constructed. During the construction, the senior engineers and project manager encountered several problems that they had not met before. While they used the incremental launching method for building the bridge, they knew that the project scheduling in the bridge part might be out of control because it was the first time for them to building bridge using incremental launching method. At the beginning of this retrospective case study, it takes almost 1 month for


H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

Fig. 10. An IDEF0 diagram showing the sub-level phase of knowledge storage.

them to build one segment using incremental launching method. Therefore, they tried to work out the problems and provide solutions to speed up the implementation of building segments. Segment knowledge was treated in five phases—knowledge acquisition, knowledge extraction, knowledge storage, knowledge sharing and knowledge update. Table 4 describes the context and process of implementing knowledge management in this project. 9.2. Knowledge acquisition phase (step 1 –step 5) A senior engineer collects related information/documentation and coverts it into digital format. After the information/document has been digitized, the senior engineer writes descriptions/notes enclosing that digital information and packages them as knowledge package for submission.

9.3. Knowledge extraction phase (step 6 –step 10) A senior engineer and a knowledge worker record all the operating procedures by taking digital video and photographs. The senior engineer discussed progress with two experts every 2 days to accelerate the solving of the problem in question. All discussions were recorded and summarized as suggested by experts. Discussions with experts continued for 3 months, until the problem was solved. Finally, it only takes almost 2 weeks for them to build one segment. The senior engineer recorded and summarized his experience and domain knowledge in the system to enable the problem’s solution to be reapplied in other and future projects. The domain knowledge included the problem description (including documents, photographs, drawings and specifications), the prob-

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Fig. 11. An IDEF0 diagram showing the sub-level phase of knowledge sharing.

lem’s solution (including related documents and photographs and video of processes) and expert suggestions (such as notes, discussions and meeting records). Knowledge was extracted according to each process defined as related to the activity of a project. Domain knowledge and experience was organized according to the attribute of the activity concerned. Most senior engineers are required to provide their own knowledge concerning the tasks for which they are responsible. 9.4. Knowledge storage phase (step 11 – step 15) When the submitted knowledge package is approved (see Fig. 15), a knowledge worker classifies this knowledge by placing it in an appropriate position in the system. Also, the knowledge pack-

age is automatically backed up from the knowledge bank to another database. After approving and storing knowledge, the system sends a message regarding the updating of the knowledge to the appropriate users automatically. 9.5. Knowledge sharing phase (step 16– step 20) In the current and similar projects, a junior engineer with no prior experience meets a similar problem and tries to locate knowledge/information to help him solve the problem. The junior engineer uses the keyword search to find the expert who has domain knowledge concerned about bridge (see Fig. 14). The junior engineer finds the experts and retrieves, refers to and studies the knowledge package (including digital video and documentation) supported by these experts.


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Fig. 12. An IDEF0 diagram showing the sub-level phase of knowledge update.

He starts to apply and reuse the knowledge in his own project. Also, the junior engineer gives some feedback and offers knowledge that can be reused when others face new problems. Additionally, some senior engineers in other projects and reuse the same knowledge to solve the same problem at reduced cost. 9.6. Knowledge update phase (step 21 –step 25) After applying knowledge and information to the other similar projects, the junior engineer solves his problem and finds a new solution in collaboration with some senior engineers. Finally, the junior engineer notes and submits the new suggestion and experience, associated with the original knowledge. Furthermore, the knowledge is updated later because further feedback and another solution is provided regarding the same problem. After the approval process has been completed, the updated knowledge

package is republished to the authorized members (see Fig. 15).

10. Conclusion This paper presents the application of knowledge management in the construction phase of construction projects using a web-based portal. Web technologies and knowledge management concepts can be effectively used during the construction phase of a project to enable knowledge to be captured and reused in similar projects in the future. Furthermore, the concept of activity-based knowledge management is presented, and a system for use as a knowledge-sharing platform in construction projects is presented. The construction activity-based knowledge management system maps valuable information and knowledge into activity units during the con-

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Fig. 13. System architecture.

struction phase of a project. The ABKM system is advanced, at least in the following respects; the ABKM system provides insight into the factors that have an impact on construction management activities, and helps engineers to share knowledge and improves the results of the entire construction project. Junior engineers can interact with the computer to gain, domain knowledge, and thus prepare for and participate in a construction project. Briefly, the ABKM system can provide the engineers to gather

structured and unstructured information to achieve the best interest in the reuse of, explicit and tacit knowledge. The integration of knowledge management and web-based technologies appears to be a promising means of improving construction operation and management, especially in the construction phases of projects. In order to fully utilize services in the corporation, the strategy and policy are assisted with the knowledge management implementation for the contractor. One of the most different problems in


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Table 3 All functions description for using ConABKM system Category


Specification/ Contract Managers

Each project’s specifications and contracts are stored in the active and non-active categories of a project category. One of the best benefits of this is that it is easy to find all specifications and contracts for all projects without wasting time and mass storage space. Paper-based specifications and contracts from past projects need to be scanned by knowledge workers into electronic format (PDF files) then subsequently saved into the system database. All specifications and contracts of past and current projects can be found and downloaded in PDF format from the ConABKM system. All project-related documents and reports are centralized in the server of the ConPBKM system. The main purpose of these services is to be the e-information center for the company. All users who need to find project-related information or documents can just access the system and get what they need. Therefore, project-related documents must be transferred to electronic format so they can be preserved in the system and be accessible. These documents and reports will be saved under the categories of active and non-active for related-project categories. In the ConABKM system, documents and reports files must be uploaded in PDF format, the standard file format. It is convenient for users to reuse these documents and reports without the problems of different software versions or file format. In order to reduce the cost of training for problem solving, it is necessary to record videos and photos by the on-site engineers during the construction phase of a project. With the use of digital cameras and camcorders, all operational processes and problem solving of a project can be recorded and preserved as company knowledge asset. For future related projects, digital records can be reused and shared for experts and managers to reduce the time to solve problems.

Document/Report Managers

Video/Photo Managers

Table 3 (continued) Category


E-Courses Service

The purpose of e-course services is to provide e-learning to all participants in the construction phase of a project. Without time and location limitations, it is helpful to provide e-courses for needed people via the internet or intranet. Especially for junior engineers, it is convenient for them to learn and understand how a project operates in the construction phase. E-Meeting Service* The purpose of e-meeting services is to (Seenet V-Con record all project-related meetings and http://product. discussions. All meetings or discussions are recorded and saved as digital files in the ConABKM server. Also, video conferencing is one of the e-meeting services. The contents of meetings or discussions can be recorded and preserved in the ConABKM system. Expert Yellow Experts Yellow Page is a service that assists Pages Service with finding related experts in the enterprise. It is just like a yellow page. All related-area experts will be mapped in the system based on their specific and professional trade. Users can access this service to find and contact the experts they need in a project. Problem-Solving During the construction phase of a project, Service lots of problems may occur in the construction phase. Some problems may be solved or improved by engineers or experts, and some are unsolved. To avoid making similar mistakes in other projects, the valued experience and know-how can be saved using problem-solving services. During or before the same problems happen, engineers may find existing solutions concerning the problem. During the construction phase of a project, Collaboration Services collaboration services allow experts and engineers to perform tasks and work Service* (T-Collaboration on projects together by the collaborative http://www. communication platform. The communications support video conferencing, voice, multimedia and conversations. The message manager is a web-based Message Manage Service* project-oriented mail system that allows project participants to receive notice (ePost121 mail when the knowledge bank is updated. http://www. * Means borrowed from off-the-shelf software/program.

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Table 4 Scenario description for using ConABKM system Step Knowledge Acquisition

Knowledge Extraction

Knowledge Storage

Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge Update



1 2

Collect Information Digital Information


Edit Information


Package Information


Submit Information

6 7

Record Operation and Event Edit Knowledge


Manage Knowledge


Package Knowledge


Submit Knowledge


Approve Knowledge


Classify Knowledge


Store Knowledge


Backup Knowledge

15 16

Publish Knowledge Search Knowledge


Refer Knowledge


Modify Knowledge


Apply Knowledge


Collect Feedback


Collect Information


Renote Knowledge


Repackage Knowledge


Approve Knowledge


Republish Knowledge

Senior engineer collects all activities-related documents/information/data Senior engineer transfers paper-based information/documents into the digital information/data set Senior engineer edits the description and comment/note for digital document/information Senior engineer packages the description and comment/note with attaching related files that can illustrate the explanation or example Senior engineer submits package that includes the description and comment/note with attaching related files for approving Senior engineer or a knowledge worker records digital related process information for the operation of successful and failure events Senior engineer or a knowledge worker edits the description and note/comment for the records of video and photo Knowledge workers collect and manage the coordinated information (includes grouping the meeting records and knowledge communities) Senior engineer or a knowledge worker packages the description and comment/note with attaching related files Senior engineer or a knowledge worker submits the package that includes the description and comment/note with attaching related files Knowledge worker audits; knowledge worker/expert checks and approves the submission of knowledge package before the classification and storage Knowledge worker classifies the approved knowledge package for an appropriate position in the system Knowledge worker stores knowledge package into knowledge bank based on the classification Knowledge Package is automatically backuped from the knowledge bank to another database for the safety purposes Knowledge package is published and announced for the re-use and application Junior engineer found past related knowledge/experience by using keywords or domain expert search (see Fig. 14) Junior engineer refers and studies past existing knowledge/experience that is stored in the system (see Fig. 14) Junior engineer modifies the original knowledge package based on new projects or others existing projects Junior engineer applies the modified existing knowledge package in other existing projects or future projects Junior engineer collects feedback from the applied-original or modified knowledge package Junior engineer collects all paper-based and electronic format of document/information/data Junior engineer edits the digital document/information by adding detail description and comment/note Junior engineer packages the description and comment/note with attaching related files that can illustrate the explanation or example Knowledge package would be approved to be processed under an accurate procedure before saving in the knowledge bank (see Fig. 15) Knowledge package is republished and announced for the reuse or application, based on the original knowledge

putting knowledge management into practice is how to let these senior engineers and experts share their know-how and expert without the unwillingness.

Some rewards and penalty policies according to submission credits currently are utilized in the knowledge management strategy.


H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

Fig. 14. Search knowledge interface of the ConABKM system.

H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

Fig. 15. Approving knowledge package interface of the ConABKM system.



H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

The content of the knowledge bank in the system not only provides specific problem solutions, but also includes all domain knowledge and experiences gained on projects. Although effort is required to update the explicit/tacit knowledge, the developed system will support construction management by (1) providing an effective and efficient computerized environment to support knowledge management tasks, and (2) facilitating the implementation of a web-based knowledge management system that supports pertinent to these activities in the projects. A function modeling method called IDEF0 is applied to understand the necessary function for consideration in the knowledge flow process model. The case study also highlighted the need for improving knowledge management and exchange platforms. The major contributions of the study are as follows; (1) elucidating the content and procedure of knowledge management in construction projects; (2) proposing procedures for building knowledge management for construction projects; and (3) developing a construction knowledge management system specific for managing construction projects with reference to activities in a project.

Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge the National Science Council, Taiwan, for financially supporting this work under contract number NSC-902211-E-002-071 and express our appreciation to the officials of Taiwan Area National Expressway Engineering Bureau for assistance in the system design and interviews, and to the experts and engineers of the general contractor of the project for providing useful data, valuable information and helpful comments during system design and development.

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