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Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781 – 802

www.elsevier.com/locate/autcon

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 Management (KM) efforts to leverage knowledge


both within their organization and externally to the
Knowledge is the real asset of a marketing-orient- benefit of their stakeholders and customers [2,3]. The
ed organization, and its integration across depart- reuse of information and knowledge minimizes the
ments and disciplines should be emphasized [1]. need to refer explicitly to past projects, reduces
Many organizations are now engaged in Knowledge 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
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +886-22364-4154; fax: 886-
22366-1640.
are shared, then the same or similar problems in
E-mail addresses: hptserng@ce.ntu.edu.tw (H. Ping Tserng), construction projects do not need to be repeatedly
yucheng@ce.ntu.edu.tw (Y.-C. Lin). solved. Reduced problem-solving has the following

0926-5805/$ - see front matter D 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2004.05.003
782 H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

advantages; (1) The cost of problem solving is jects. Most of the data and information used in
reduced and (2) the probability of repeat problems construction projects are stored in paper documents;
is decreased. Several enabling activities should be they include contracts, specifications, notes, summa-
considered to help to achieve the ultimate goal of ries of discussions and field reports. Converting paper
efficient experience and knowledge reuse; experience documents into electronic versions to be shared and
and knowledge should be preserved and managed; applied in future projects is important and necessary
that is, they should be captured, modeled, stored, in facilitating information management and support-
retrieved, adapted, evaluated and maintained [4]. ing the reuse of knowledge. Information and knowl-
The knowledge can be classified as either tacit or edge associated with a project can then be identified
explicit. Tacit knowledge is difficult to express and as active unit in the project management and pre-
cannot be documented in formal language. Explicit served in a web-based system that provides the
knowledge is that which has been codified and platform for exchanging and storing this information
expressed in formal language; it can be represented, and knowledge.
stored, shared and effectively applied [5]. The distinc-
tion between these two types of knowledge is relevant
because each must be managed differently. Knowl- 2. Problem statement
edge management in the construction phase deals
primarily with the process of creating value from Construction projects are complex and time-con-
knowledge about construction operations, organiza- suming, which have usually been characterized by
tions and companies. Valuable knowledge is available their complexity, diversity and the non-standard na-
in various forms and media, including in the minds of ture of the production [8]. Whatever successful and
experts, operating procedures, documents, databases, unsuccessful projects have been executed by the
intranets and other entities; however, knowledge man- general contractors, a valuable record of each one
agement in the construction phase of projects aims to should be kept to identify best and worst company
collect and share effectively and systematically the practices. During the construction phase of projects,
experience and knowledge of projects using web- an effective means of improving construction man-
based and intranet technologies. agement is to share experiences among engineers,
The latest communication and information tech- which helps to prevent mistakes that have already
nology (i.e., communities of practice and chat rooms) been encountered in past projects. Drawing on expe-
can improve collaboration, coordination and informa- rience avoids the need to solve problems from scratch:
tion exchange among organizations that are involved Problems that have already been solved do not need to
in construction projects [6]. They can be described as be solved again. When the engineers and experts
a set of information exchange platforms that collect, complete projects or leave the company, they normal-
retrieve, process, store and distribute data to support ly take domain knowledge with them and leave little
planning, control, management and decision-making or nothing that will benefit subsequent projects or the
among organizations involved in the project. Wilkins company. From the perspective of knowledge man-
and Barrett [7] proposed a web-based system to agement, this know-how and these experiences of
explicate the manner in which buildings are assem- construction engineers and experts are the most valu-
bled, to assist civil engineering students. In a dynamic able because their accumulation depends not only on
construction environment, the ability to exchange manpower but also on the spending of much money
information from various sources and in different and time. Edum-Fotwe and McCaffer pointed out [9]
formats becomes crucial to the implementation of professional competency in project management is
the construction processes supported by these sys- attained by combining knowledge acquired during
tems. Furthermore, the collected data, information and training and skills developed through experience as
knowledge constitute an important and valuable well as the application of the acquired knowledge.
source to be drawn on in managing construction Some construction companies had applied the com-
knowledge. Reusing and updating knowledge merce package for knowledge management. However,
improves the execution of future activities and pro- those systems just deal with the explicit knowledge
H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802 783

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


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

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 imple-
ment 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
Fig. 2. Main knowledge sources percentages concerned about construction projects (see Fig. 3).
construction project-related knowledge.

(document management). The tacit knowledge and 3. Research objectives


experience are still exists in the head of engineers and
experts. Therefore, this situation represents a major The management of general contractors’ knowledge
loss for general contractors who do not preserve the usually revolves around projects. Knowledge manage-
know-how and experiences of senior engineers and ment in the construction phase of a project constitutes a
experts. knowledge-intensive organizational context in which
Fig. 1 presents statements of knowledge manage- knowledge creation is critically important to general
ment problems during the construction phase of contractors. A general contractor may make innovative
construction projects. In particular, the problems of use of knowledge generated and accumulated through
formatting documents and electronic storage in tacit project activities, and share it across related projects to
and explicit knowledge are illustrated for the research be competitive. Engineers and experts who are in-
in the construction phase of a project. volved in projects act as knowledge workers who
The development of a survey to obtain data from the facilitate the collection and management of knowledge
Taiwan construction industry on knowledge manage- among current and past projects. Therefore, the cap-

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


H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802 785

Fig. 4. The main framework of knowledge management used in construction projects [21].
786 H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

ture, transfer, reuse and maintenance of construction knowledge is personal, context-specific knowledge
project knowledge are necessary [10]. Also, engineers that is difficult to formalize, record or articulate; it is
may be provided with previous project experience and stored in the heads of people [12]. Tiwana [13]
assisted to execute future projects [11]. The all above- explained that tacit knowledge is personal knowledge
mentioned knowledge and experience mostly are un- embedded in individual experience and shared and
available in the general corporation information system exchanged through direct, face-to-face contact. In
and the in the Internet. Therefore, this study develops a contrast, explicit knowledge is formal knowledge that
Construction Activity-Based Knowledge Management can be packaged as information. Explicit knowledge
(ConABKM) system for general contractors, to provide can be codified and transmitted in a systematic and
a knowledge exchange and management service in the formal language. Also, explicit knowledge can be
construction phase of a project, to promote the reuse of found in the documents of organizations, including
domain knowledge and experience in future and cur- reports, articles, manuals, patents, pictures, images,
rent projects. The proposed system can let users just video, audio, software and other forms. It can also be
click the related activities of the project and the system found in organizational documents, such as organiza-
will show available activity-related knowledge of tional charts, process maps, mission statements,
clicked activities and link other available similar activ- domains of experience and others. Explicit knowledge
ities of other projects automatically for users access is easier to collect and manage during the construction
when users need some past project knowledge. Fig. 4 phase of a project because the information and knowl-
illustrates the main concepts and framework of knowl- edge are available in document form. Document man-
edge management applied in the construction projects. agement can preserve and manage information and
knowledge without extracting explicit knowledge.

4. Knowledge management in construction phase


5. Lifecycle of construction knowledge
Fig. 5 shows the concept of knowledge manage- management
ment applied in the construction phase of a project.
Knowledge management in construction projects pro- As Liebowitz and Wilcox [14] point out, knowl-
motes an integrated approach to the creation, capture, edge management life cycle includes building knowl-
accessing and use of a professional’s domain knowl- edge, organizing and holding, distributing and
edge of products, services and processes. During the pooling, and applying knowledge to work object.
construction phase of a project, most project-related Knowledge management is a framework within which
problems, solutions, experiences and know-how are in the organization views all its processes as knowledge
the minds of individual engineers and experts. Implicit processing, where all business processes involve cre-
knowledge is not normally documented or stored in a ation, dissemination, renewal and application of
system database. Capturing implicit knowledge and knowledge toward organizational sustenance and sur-
making it available as explicit knowledge are impor- vival [2]. Knowledge management is a discipline of
tant to knowledge management in the construction identifying, capturing, retrieving, sharing and evaluat-
phase: the reuse of knowledge in other projects and ing an enterprise’s information assets [15]. KM is
the preservation of such knowledge as corporate newly emerging, interdisciplinary business model
property. Experience, problem solving, know-how, dealing with all aspects of knowledge within the
know-what and innovation are created or performed context of the firm, including knowledge creating,
in the construction phase of any project. Implement- codification, sharing and how these activities promote
ing knowledge management allows tacit knowledge to learning and innovation [16]. Knowledge management
be reused in other projects, the improvement of life cycle contains acquiring knowledge, interpreting
operations in the construction phase to be accelerated. knowledge and applying knowledge [17].
Most knowledge content in the construction phase The following top-level phases and sub-level phases
of a project can be classified into two broad catego- are modified and defined for construction knowledge
ries—tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge. Tacit management according to above-mentioned referen-
H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802 787

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

ces. Top-level phases are knowledge acquisition, 6. Concept of activity-based knowledge


knowledge extraction, knowledge storage, knowledge management (ABKM)
sharing and knowledge update (see Table 1). Each sub-
level phase is briefly outlined in the following descrip- Similar to project scheduling management, knowl-
tions (see Table 2). edge management is based on the concept of under-
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Table 1 related to each activity of a project. All participants in a


Description for top-level phase of construction knowledge project are responsible for providing the information/
management
knowledge according to their own domain. Any activ-
A0 Description
ity integrated information/knowledge requirement that
Knowledge Knowledge acquisition is the collection has been noted, will be classified to allow relevant
Acquisition of related data and information,
experiences and processes to be recorded. Therefore,
concerning of a typical project.
Knowledge Knowledge extraction is the process the information/knowledge associated with activities
Extraction of translating data and information can be referred to and reused in other projects.
into knowledge. Knowledge is saved in activity units includes both
Knowledge Knowledge has been stored under a tacit and explicit knowledge. With respect to explicit
Storage centralized and safe environment.
knowledge, activity-related information or knowledge
Knowledge Knowledge sharing enables the
Sharing engineer to share the valuable knowledge normally includes specifications/contracts, reports,
and information which has stored in the drawings, change orders and data. Not all activities
system by using the internet or intranet. include information or knowledge because some ac-
Knowledge The feedback from various users which has tivities involve project-based information. The infor-
Update put back to the knowledge management
mation and knowledge that relates to the whole
system and update the knowledge for reuse.
project and cannot be clearly classified into activity
units can saved as ‘‘Non-activity’’ category of the
taking activities of project planning and control. project. In contrast, tacit knowledge may include
Knowledge and information associated with activities process records, problems faced, problems solved,
in previous projects may be reused and applied in expert suggestions, know-how, innovations and notes
future projects. Information and domain knowledge on experience. Information and knowledge is better
from all projects are divided and saved as ‘‘activity’’ saved in activity-based units to facilitate classification
units in categories related to the projects for collection and searching by users. Moreover, users may search
and management. The main advantage of activity- and refer to related information and knowledge from
based knowledge management is the ease with which related activities in past projects.
the information and knowledge can be understood and The relationships among current and past activities
reapplied. Fig. 6 presents an overview and conceptual are important in enabling users to associate related
framework of activity-based knowledge management information and knowledge. According to Fig. 6, not
used in construction projects. only can information and knowledge about the current
Tacit knowledge refers to the information that is project be applied, but also information and knowledge
visibly or invisibly related to a part of a knowledge about the same or similar activities in past projects can
(including experience and know-how); Explicit infor- be referred to as experiences are recorded. When
mation is the information that enables or facilitates the experts or engineers enter information and knowledge
execution of particular information, including con- into the system, they need to add relationships among
tracting, drawing, solving problems or approving pro- the activities in the project. The system is designed to
posals. By collecting explicit knowledge and tacit link same or similar activities automatically and to
knowledge, an activity-based knowledge management allow connections to be made manually.
system can store information and knowledge among
activities. Essentially, the associated information/
knowledge makes the activity-based knowledge man- 7. IDEF modeling for knowledge management
agement system substantially different from traditional process
project scheduling systems. Consequently, each activ-
ity in the activity-based knowledge management sys- The concept of integrating IDEF (Integrated
tem involves two types of information—explicit DEFinition function modeling) modeling method is
knowledge and tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge proposed and used for designing construction
records the forms of resources and information as well knowledge management systems. An enterprise’s
as statements of experience and domain knowledge modeling methods, architectures and tools can be
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Table 2 Table 2 (continued)


Description for sub-level phase of construction knowledge Description
management
Knowledge sharing—A4
Description
Search Find knowledge/experience by using
Knowledge acquisition—A1 Knowledge keywords or a domain expert search.
Collect Collection of all paper-based and Refer Refer and exam the past knowledge/
Information electronic documents/information/data. Knowledge experience that has stored in the system.
Digital Convert paper-based information/ Modify Modify the original knowledge
Information document into digital information. Knowledge package based on the new projects
Edit Edit the original digital document/ or other current projects.
Information information by adding detail Apply Apply the modified existing knowledge
descriptions and comments/notes. Knowledge packages to other projects.
Package Attach the related files which is Collect Collect the feedback based on the
Information contained of descriptions and Feedback application of original or modified
comments/notes to clarify the knowledge package.
explanation or present an
example of shared information. Knowledge update—A5
Submit Submit a package that includes a Collect Information Collect all paper-based and electronic
Information description and comments/notes format of documents/information/data.
and the attached files with photos. Renote Knowledge Note the new or updated description
and notes/comments based on the
Knowledge extraction—A2 original knowledge package.
Record Operation Record the process information of Repackage Knowledge Repackage the new or update description
and Event a construction operating event in and comments/notes with attached
a digital format. related files based on the original
Edit Edit the description and notes/ knowledge package.
Knowledge comments for recording as Approve Knowledge Approve updated knowledge package
video and photographs. to be processed accurately before
Manage Collect the grouping meeting records saving it in the knowledge bank.
Knowledge and manage the knowledge community. Republish Knowledge Republish knowledge package for auto-
Package Package the description and comments/ distributed within the certain community
Knowledge notes with the attached files that clarify groups for reuse and application.
the explanation or provide other exam-
ples.
Submit Submission of the package that includes
Information description and comments/notes
used to support engineering the life cycles of large,
and the attached files.
complex and changing systems [18]. The IDEF
Knowledge storage—A3 suite of enterprise modeling approaches, consisting
Approve Approve the Knowledge Package IDEF0, IDEF1, IDEF1x, IDEF3 and other graph-
Knowledge knowledge ically based modeling methods having been applied
to be processed accurately before being
extensively in support of large industrial engineering
saved in the knowledge bank.
Classify Classify knowledge package before it projects [19]. The information/knowledge contents
Knowledge stores appropriately in the system. and processes managed in the system are identified
Store Follow by its classification and store the through the IDEF0 function modeling approach.
Knowledge knowledge package in the knowledge IDEF0 was developed to represent activities or
bank.
processes that are normally performed in an orga-
Backup Back up Knowledge Package from the
Knowledge knowledge bank to another nized and standardized manner. The IDEF0 defini-
database for safety. tion of a function is a set of activities that takes
Publish Publish Knowledge Package for certain inputs and, using some mechanism, subject
Knowledge auto-distributed within the certain to certain controls, transforms those inputs into
community groups for reuse and appli-
outputs. Such inputs, controls, outputs and mecha-
cation.
nisms (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.


H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802 791

The development of construction knowledge man- The server of the ConABKM system supports four
agement encompasses all activities from ‘‘acquiring distinct layers—interface, access, application and da-
knowledge’’ to ‘‘updating knowledge’’. Fig. 7 presents tabase layers; each has its own responsibilities.
the top-level IDEF0 context diagram to represent the The interface layer defines administrative and
scope of the process. In this study, the context diagram end-user interfaces. The Users can access informa-
is decomposed into five sub-functions—‘‘knowledge tion through web browsers such as Microsoft Inter-
acquisition’’, ‘‘knowledge extraction’’, ‘‘knowledge net Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Administrators
storage’’, ‘‘knowledge sharing’’ and ‘‘knowledge up- can control and manage information via the web
date’’. Figs. 8– 12 show an IDEF0 diagram that enc- browser or using a separate server interface. The
odes the functional decomposition that corresponds to access layer provides system security and restricted
the ‘‘knowledge acquisition’’, ‘‘knowledge extrac- access, firewall services and system administration
tion’’, ‘‘knowledge storage’’, ‘‘knowledge sharing’’ functions. The application layer defines various
and ‘‘knowledge update’’ process respectively. applications for collecting and managing informa-
tion. These applications offer indexing, full text
search, collaborative work and document manage-
8. System implementation ment functions. The database layer consists of a
primary SQL Server 2000 database and a backup
This section describes in detail the ConABKM database (also based on SQL Server 2000). In order
system. Fig. 13 illustrates the system architecture. to manage the projects, each project is may classified

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


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

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

by project ID number, project name and project corporation through a specially designed portal. The
attribute. portal is a key element of the proposed system and
All project information and knowledge in the consists of two content areas—member and knowl-
ConABKM system is centralized in a system data- edge manager areas. The member and knowledge
base. Project participants may have access to all or manager are as accessible only by members with
some of these documents through the Internet, as passwords. In the project member area, project
determined by their levels of access authorization. members can use ConABKM services, such as
Any information/knowledge about the project can be messaging, accessing information and knowledge.
obtained from and deposited into the system data- Only project members can access information and
base only through a secure interface. The web and knowledge according their authorities. Only knowl-
database servers are distributed on different com- edge managers can log into the manager area, where
puters, between which a firewall can be built to they can access all information in the highest server.
protect the system database against intrusion. The The knowledge management division of the corpo-
ConABKM system that is an independent system ration decides the authorization levels for members
currently will integrate with corporation enterprise (each engineer and expert) based on the project
resource planning (ERP) system together in the attributes. The members can access the system after
future. the authorization has made.
The ConABKM portal services described in this All project-related information and knowledge in
study are made available to all participants of the 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 All functions in the system are briefly outlined in
information/knowledge are stored in different tables the following descriptions (see Table 3).
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 9. Case example
the corporation multimedia database. In the future,
the multimedia database will expand the capacity 9.1. Overview of case study
of database when the number of images being
taken increase nonlinearly. In order to indexing The cases study concerned a highway project in
those meta-data images, the system is design to Taiwan. At the time of this research, the bridge had
let the users to position the related meta-data already been constructed. During the construction, the
images into the activity of the project. In other senior engineers and project manager encountered
words, users just search the related activities di- several problems that they had not met before. While
rectly and then find those meta-data images effec- they used the incremental launching method for build-
tively. Finally, the ConABKM system backs up all ing the bridge, they knew that the project scheduling in
databases in the system to ensure the reliability of the bridge part might be out of control because it was
data storage. The backup database is in another the first time for them to building bridge using incre-
building to protect it against disasters such as mental launching method. At the beginning of this
earthquakes or fire. retrospective case study, it takes almost 1 month for
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Fig. 10. An IDEF0 diagram showing the sub-level phase of knowledge storage.

them to build one segment using incremental launching 9.3. Knowledge extraction phase (step 6 –step 10)
method. Therefore, they tried to work out the problems
and provide solutions to speed up the implementation A senior engineer and a knowledge worker
of building segments. Segment knowledge was treated record all the operating procedures by taking dig-
in five phases—knowledge acquisition, knowledge ital video and photographs. The senior engineer
extraction, knowledge storage, knowledge sharing discussed progress with two experts every 2 days
and knowledge update. Table 4 describes the context to accelerate the solving of the problem in ques-
and process of implementing knowledge management tion. All discussions were recorded and summa-
in this project. rized as suggested by experts. Discussions with
experts continued for 3 months, until the problem
9.2. Knowledge acquisition phase (step 1 –step 5) was solved. Finally, it only takes almost 2 weeks
for them to build one segment. The senior engineer
A senior engineer collects related information/doc- recorded and summarized his experience and do-
umentation and coverts it into digital format. After the main knowledge in the system to enable the
information/document has been digitized, the senior problem’s solution to be reapplied in other and
engineer writes descriptions/notes enclosing that dig- future projects. The domain knowledge included
ital information and packages them as knowledge the problem description (including documents, pho-
package for submission. tographs, 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 age is automatically backed up from the knowledge
photographs and video of processes) and expert bank to another database. After approving and
suggestions (such as notes, discussions and meeting storing knowledge, the system sends a message
records). Knowledge was extracted according to regarding the updating of the knowledge to the
each process defined as related to the activity of appropriate users automatically.
a project. Domain knowledge and experience was
organized according to the attribute of the activity 9.5. Knowledge sharing phase (step 16– step 20)
concerned. Most senior engineers are required to
provide their own knowledge concerning the tasks In the current and similar projects, a junior engineer
for which they are responsible. with no prior experience meets a similar problem and
tries to locate knowledge/information to help him
9.4. Knowledge storage phase (step 11 – step 15) solve the problem. The junior engineer uses the
keyword search to find the expert who has domain
When the submitted knowledge package is ap- knowledge concerned about bridge (see Fig. 14). The
proved (see Fig. 15), a knowledge worker classifies junior engineer finds the experts and retrieves, refers to
this knowledge by placing it in an appropriate and studies the knowledge package (including digital
position in the system. Also, the knowledge pack- 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 package is republished to the authorized members
project. Also, the junior engineer gives some feedback (see Fig. 15).
and offers knowledge that can be reused when others
face new problems. Additionally, some senior engi-
neers in other projects and reuse the same knowledge 10. Conclusion
to solve the same problem at reduced cost.
This paper presents the application of knowledge
9.6. Knowledge update phase (step 21 –step 25) management in the construction phase of construc-
tion projects using a web-based portal. Web technol-
After applying knowledge and information to the ogies and knowledge management concepts can be
other similar projects, the junior engineer solves his effectively used during the construction phase of a
problem and finds a new solution in collaboration project to enable knowledge to be captured and
with some senior engineers. Finally, the junior engi- reused in similar projects in the future. Furthermore,
neer notes and submits the new suggestion and the concept of activity-based knowledge manage-
experience, associated with the original knowledge. ment is presented, and a system for use as a
Furthermore, the knowledge is updated later because knowledge-sharing platform in construction projects
further feedback and another solution is provided is presented. The construction activity-based knowl-
regarding the same problem. After the approval edge management system maps valuable information
process has been completed, the updated knowledge 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 structured and unstructured information to achieve
advanced, at least in the following respects; the the best interest in the reuse of, explicit and tacit
ABKM system provides insight into the factors that knowledge. The integration of knowledge manage-
have an impact on construction management activi- ment and web-based technologies appears to be a
ties, and helps engineers to share knowledge and promising means of improving construction opera-
improves the results of the entire construction proj- tion and management, especially in the construction
ect. Junior engineers can interact with the computer phases of projects. In order to fully utilize services in
to gain, domain knowledge, and thus prepare for and the corporation, the strategy and policy are assisted
participate in a construction project. Briefly, the with the knowledge management implementation for
ABKM system can provide the engineers to gather the contractor. One of the most different problems in
798 H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802

Table 3 Table 3 (continued)


All functions description for using ConABKM system
Category Description
Category Description
E-Courses The purpose of e-course services is to
Specification/ Each project’s specifications and contracts Service provide e-learning to all participants
Contract are stored in the active and non-active in the construction phase of a project.
Managers categories of a project category. Without time and location limitations,
One of the best benefits of this is that it is helpful to provide e-courses for
it is easy to find all specifications and needed people via the internet or intranet.
contracts for all projects without wasting Especially for junior engineers, it is
time and mass storage space. convenient for them to learn and
Paper-based specifications and contracts understand how a project operates in the
from past projects need to be scanned construction phase.
by knowledge workers into electronic E-Meeting Service* The purpose of e-meeting services is to
format (PDF files) then subsequently (Seenet V-Con record all project-related meetings and
saved into the system database. http://product. discussions. All meetings or discussions
All specifications and contracts of past seed.net.tw) are recorded and saved as digital files in
and current projects can be found and the ConABKM server. Also, video
downloaded in PDF format from the conferencing is one of the e-meeting
ConABKM system. services. The contents of meetings
Document/Report All project-related documents and reports or discussions can be recorded and
Managers are centralized in the server of the preserved in the ConABKM system.
ConPBKM system. The main purpose Expert Yellow Experts Yellow Page is a service that assists
of these services is to be the Pages Service with finding related experts in the enterprise.
e-information center for the company. It is just like a yellow page. All related-area
All users who need to find experts will be mapped in the system based
project-related information or documents on their specific and professional trade.
can just access the system and get Users can access this service to find and
what they need. Therefore, project-related contact the experts they need in a project.
documents must be transferred to Problem-Solving During the construction phase of a project,
electronic format so they can be preserved Service lots of problems may occur in the
in the system and be accessible. construction phase. Some problems may
These documents and reports will be be solved or improved by engineers
saved under the categories of active and or experts, and some are unsolved.
non-active for related-project categories. To avoid making similar mistakes in
In the ConABKM system, documents and other projects, the valued experience and
reports files must be uploaded in PDF know-how can be saved using
format, the standard file format. problem-solving services. During or
It is convenient for users to reuse before the same problems happen,
these documents and reports without engineers may find existing solutions
the problems of different software concerning the problem.
versions or file format. Collaboration During the construction phase of a project,
Video/Photo In order to reduce the cost of training Services collaboration services allow experts and
Managers for problem solving, it is necessary to Service* engineers to perform tasks and work
record videos and photos by the on-site (T-Collaboration on projects together by the collaborative
engineers during the construction phase http://www. communication platform.
of a project. With the use of digital tc.com.tw) The communications support video
cameras and camcorders, all conferencing, voice, multimedia
operational processes and problem and conversations.
solving of a project can be recorded and Message Manage The message manager is a web-based
preserved as company knowledge asset. Service* project-oriented mail system that allows
For future related projects, digital records (ePost121 project participants to receive notice
can be reused and shared for experts and http://www. mail when the knowledge bank is updated.
managers to reduce the time to epost121.com)
solve problems. * Means borrowed from off-the-shelf software/program.
H. Ping Tserng, Y.-C. Lin / Automation in Construction 13 (2004) 781–802 799

Table 4
Scenario description for using ConABKM system
Step Phase Scenario
Knowledge Acquisition 1 Collect Information Senior engineer collects all activities-related documents/information/data
2 Digital Information Senior engineer transfers paper-based information/documents into the
digital information/data set
3 Edit Information Senior engineer edits the description and comment/note for digital
document/information
4 Package Information Senior engineer packages the description and comment/note with attaching
related files that can illustrate the explanation or example
5 Submit Information Senior engineer submits package that includes the description and
comment/note with attaching related files for approving
Knowledge Extraction 6 Record Operation Senior engineer or a knowledge worker records digital related process
and Event information for the operation of successful and failure events
7 Edit Knowledge Senior engineer or a knowledge worker edits the description and note/comment
for the records of video and photo
8 Manage Knowledge Knowledge workers collect and manage the coordinated information (includes
grouping the meeting records and knowledge communities)
9 Package Knowledge Senior engineer or a knowledge worker packages the description and
comment/note with attaching related files
10 Submit Knowledge Senior engineer or a knowledge worker submits the package that includes the
description and comment/note with attaching related files
Knowledge Storage 11 Approve Knowledge Knowledge worker audits; knowledge worker/expert checks and approves the
submission of knowledge package before the classification and storage
12 Classify Knowledge Knowledge worker classifies the approved knowledge package for an
appropriate position in the system
13 Store Knowledge Knowledge worker stores knowledge package into knowledge bank based
on the classification
14 Backup Knowledge Knowledge Package is automatically backuped from the knowledge bank to
another database for the safety purposes
15 Publish Knowledge Knowledge package is published and announced for the re-use and application
Knowledge Sharing 16 Search Knowledge Junior engineer found past related knowledge/experience by using keywords or
domain expert search (see Fig. 14)
17 Refer Knowledge Junior engineer refers and studies past existing knowledge/experience that is
stored in the system (see Fig. 14)
18 Modify Knowledge Junior engineer modifies the original knowledge package based on new
projects or others existing projects
19 Apply Knowledge Junior engineer applies the modified existing knowledge package in other
existing projects or future projects
20 Collect Feedback Junior engineer collects feedback from the applied-original or modified
knowledge package
Knowledge Update 21 Collect Information Junior engineer collects all paper-based and electronic format of
document/information/data
22 Renote Knowledge Junior engineer edits the digital document/information by adding detail
description and comment/note
23 Repackage Knowledge Junior engineer packages the description and comment/note with attaching
related files that can illustrate the explanation or example
24 Approve Knowledge Knowledge package would be approved to be processed under an accurate
procedure before saving in the knowledge bank (see Fig. 15)
25 Republish Knowledge Knowledge package is republished and announced for the reuse or application,
based on the original knowledge

putting knowledge management into practice is how Some rewards and penalty policies according to
to let these senior engineers and experts share their submission credits currently are utilized in the
know-how and expert without the unwillingness. knowledge management strategy.
800 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) 781–802 801

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


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

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