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Internet Platform for Knowledge-based Customer Needs Management and Collaboration among SMEs in Construction Industry

Final Report Summary - KNOW-CONSTRUCT (Internet Platform for Knowledge-based Customer Needs Management and Collaboration among SMEs in Construction Industry)

The construction sector is characterised by a high level of fragmentation, with a large number of participants in each construction project, being the large majority Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). To increase flexibility and profitability the bigger construction companies have significantly reduced the scope of their activity and consequently, the number of employees, focusing on the core tasks of the construction process and subcontracting most of the work to specialised and smaller companies. The sector is still characterised by a low level of education on average, low productivity, low quality and expensive maintenance and disposal.

The primary purpose of the KNOW-CONSTRUCT methodology was to provide guidelines for the system installation and usage to the end-users, i.e. construction industry Industry association groups (IAGs) and SMEs. In addition, the methodology provides necessary background knowledge related to the KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT system basics, such as Central index key (CIK) representation, knowledge community creation etc.

The KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT methodology is addressed to the end-users, i.e. IAGs and SMEs. It is addressed not only to the persons directly involved in system utilisation, but also to the person who will lead the KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT solution implementation in the company, who will guide the company through the KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT process, assisted by external assistants in methodology and in software.

This methodology includes guidelines for the KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT system implementation and for the use of its main functionalities. Knowledge communities' creation is also addressed, as well as the main aspects of CIK representation as a basis for the establishment of these knowledge communities. Finally, security aspects are also addressed.

Work on the methodology for knowledge representation, ontology and classification was carried out along the project in order to assure a continuous update of the CIK representation, involving all partners. Work on ontology and classifications was continued based on the experience gathered during the full prototype testing, assuring a wide applicable ontology keeping in mind the complexity of the construction industry.

The KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT software tool comprises the Customer needs management (CNM) module and the Knowledge communities support (KCS) module, both are briefly described below including some few screenshots of the prototype and its main functionalities description.

The KCS was developed as a content management system fully adapted to KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT from existing open source content management solutions. The KCS includes the developed CIK ontology, the tagging utility, the semantic query utility and the semantic framework (the KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT back-end system) which holds the logic for the semantic reasoning and knowledge retrieval. Moreover, the KCS contains a user forum and a web-log system. The KCS and the KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT back-end system have been developed using the open source content management system. Thus, the web content edition or the user administration can be managed through the workplace of that system. From this application, KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT users can edit the files of the web application, perform user management tasks, workflow tasks and administrative ones.

The development of this customer needs and community knowledge management platform, including the application procedures of construction products and best practices using the identified norms and classification system, is considered by the KNOWLEDGE-CONSTRUCT consortium partners (which include industrial SMEs and associations of construction industry in four European countries) an important contribution for the improvement of the performance of the SMEs in the sector.