Technologies for knowledge management : a case study of the Semantic Web in Rolls-Royce
The Semantic Web (SW) represents the next wave in the evolution of the World Wide Web (WWW). It is a web of interlinked documents containing information that can be processed, understood and reasoned over by machines. The machine is the primary user in this Web. The aim of the Semantic Web is to turn the WWW from what can be described today as a gigantic web of pages, to a global database that will permit a more fine-grained access to the information that resides on the Web. Queries initiated by humans or machines retrieve the information of interest. In this thesis the application of concepts of the Semantic Web is being investigated in the context of product unit cost modelling in Rolls-Royce plc. Parametric cost modelling is one of the approaches used to cost estimation. Parametric models rely on statistical techniques that analyse usually historical data to produce regression equations. During this process numerous assumptions become embedded in the models. Understanding the underlying data and assumptions enables judgements to be made about the suitability and applicability of a given cost model to the task at hand and leads to an understanding of the model in question. Passing knowledge intensive artefacts such as cost models over organisational boundaries requires a shared understanding between providers and consumers, of what the model represents and under which circumstances it can be used. A shared understanding is reached when ambiguity regarding possible alternative interpretations is eliminated. Currently this is achieved by providing cost model documentation to the end users. It is hypothesised that the use of explicit vocabularies a.k.a. ontologies to describe the data used in cost models will enable the effective dissemination of costing knowledge within Rolls-Royce plc, from organisations that possess such expertise to the engineering functions that consume it. A corporate semantic web drawing on its inference capabilities can remove some of the documentation overhead expended by the costing organisations in support of the tasks of producing, validating, disseminating, auditing and maintaining these parametric cost models. Such a semantic web can provide designers with cost models in a manner that reflects the change in availability of design information as the design definition evolves from abstract to concrete. Information resources from the corporate intranet can be integrated with costing data to provide contextual information in support of the statistical analysis and validation stages.