Bilfinger SE Enhances Operative Knowledge Management
The Task: Connect data, simplify the search
In a joint project group comprising users and scientists, the requirements were discussed and defined. Key criteria were soon obvious:
“From discussions with staff, it became apparent that the system would only be accepted if it was absolutely easy and intuitive to use. No matter how good the technology, as long as it is not as easy to use as Google, it will not stand a chance in day to day business. Tediously familiarizing oneself into new software was out of question.”
Dr. Thomas Kamps, CEO of CONWEAVER GmbH
That said, the project posed numerous challenges to the development team led by Dr. Kamps. Even though all data sources were related in terms of content, they were not linked technically. The data bases consisted of Lotus Notes and SQL applications with differing structures and languages. To manage such diversity was not easy. “At first, we connected existing structured data, which we then transformed into structured data with the help of statistical and linguistic methodologies, then feeding them into the network. In addition, the semantic network should obviously be kept up to date. Thus, for example, the index must be updated when new documents are added to the original system. Everything automatically, of course”, as Kamps explains the work that had to be done by him and his team.
What sounded relatively easy did pose an enormous task for the system, which was solved by approximately 200 analysis modules. These analysis modules were assembled into specific, company-related workflows that analyze, structure, translate and link the data. At the end of this process is a knowledge network that is automatically generated and updated, spanning the entire integrated database and facilitates a semantic, i.e. content-based, search.
The result: Globally linked, bilingual, clearly arranged
Two years later, the development process was completed, and the system went into use. “We created a knowledge network that automatically generates itself. Through the key database developed by the then Bilfinger Berger AG in German and English, which considered semantic concepts and is connected to the knowledge network, the system may be used worldwide and multilingually. Furthermore, we integrated mechanisms that consider variations within formulation of queries”, explains Kamps. This means that German inquiries also display English hits and that, for instance, a query for methods for water treatment also delivers hits for water processing plants.
“That different designations for the same issue are considered within the same inquiry versus a separate search for each term, facilitates the search for our staff tremendously and saves a lot of time”, says Beate Kögel. Unlike traditional internet search engines, the results are aggregated across data sources. “As an engineer at Bilfinger SE looks for Brandschutz im Tunnelbau, tore searches for all corresponding experts, among all other things. The system not only ‘knows’ that fire protection and tunneling are the translations for Brandschutz and Tunnelbau. It is also able to detect the term in reports, which, in turn, are assigned to projects. Since the project, report and project manager are stored within the project’s database, its manager may be proposed as an expert through the knowledge network’s linkage”, stresses Kamps as the crucial advantage for tore as a semantic search technology.
To meet the demand for a clearly arranged hit list, the results are displayed by expert, project, specialized information/manual, library entries as well as Research and Development (R&D). What is more, it is possible to go into further detail. For example, all documents an expert has issued are displayed and may be opened.
The tore search is now used worldwide at Bilfinger. To demonstrate the technology’s commercial success, various value-adding indicators were identified across selected departments, with unambiguous results: “With tore it is now possible to obtain information as well as to improve our staff’s decision-making and knowledge significantly. Even complex questions can now be answered in a short time and experts traced quickly. Spatial boundaries are no longer relevant. Overall, our competitive position has improved through the use of the semantic knowledge network”, Beate Kögel summarizes. tore’s first implementation (together with K-Infinity by intelligent views) delivered valuable information for the conception of optimized data analysis and search technologies. This information constitutes the foundation for the development of CONWEAVER software. tore has been running at Bilfinger SE since December 2008 on the basis of CONWEAVER. Along with the conversion to CONWEAVER, additional specific data resources from structural engineering were integrated in the semantic search.
Bilfinger SE’s tore search engine, using CONWEAVE software, takes a completely different approach compared to other current search engines. Based on the specific corporate data signature, an optimum of knowledge is extracted, unstructured data converted to structured data while organizing the whole in a cohesive knowledge network.