Final Report of IMS Test Case 7

GNOSIS: Knowledge Systematization: Configuration Systems for Design and Manufacturing


The GNOSIS test case was remarkable for the high degree of involvement and commitment on the part of all partners, and for the few problems in its operation. This section documents the main problems that arose and how they were resolved.

6.1 Slow Startup

Problems were caused by the slow startup due to funding delays, limited resources, and short timescale of the project. The solution was to focus the working groups on a small number of tasks critical to the objectives of GNOSIS and representative of the central activities expected in a long-term program. This was achieved successfully, itself a major indicator of the degree of collaboration in GNOSIS since many partners had to forego major individual objectives in the interest of the best use of resources to achieve the objectives of GNOSIS as a whole. Another consequence was that less researcher exchange took place than had been planned. Fortunately, many partners have extensive experience of personnel exchange and expect no problems in the long-term GNOSIS program.

6.2 Work Package Planning

Due to the short time scale, problems occurred in the planning phases when the time needed to introduce partners, their interests and capabilities limited the time available for detailed task allocation decisions. The solution in one case was to hold another meeting, but in others the situation was retrieved by partners acting flexibly and cooperatively to focus the meeting. This has been a major strength of GNOSIS, that the management structure has been open enough for such initiatives to occur, and that individual partners have been prepared to take up tasks supportive of the project as a whole. Similar solutions have been found in situations where important subtasks have proved impossible to carry out within the project time constraints. In the majority of cases partners have achieved the same objectives using alternative means. This flexibility indicates the robustness, and goal direction, possible in an international consortium with many diverse interests and responsibilities.

6.3 Terminology

The wide spectrum of industrial and research partners meant a number of alternative descriptive frameworks were represented. The associated heterogeneity of terminology and tools caused problems, which were addressed in two ways. First, mutual understanding was facilitated through exchange of papers and discussions at workshops. Second, common definitions of significant terms were agreed and used. In future, therefore, time should be allocated in the initial phase for this task.

6.4 Communications

Problems of communication were the source of much frustration among partners. Since eight partners did not have email it was necessary to distribute much material by fax. The distribution mechanism was to fax to the five regional coordinators who then faxed to partners in their regions. This occasionally resulted in missing material. The solutions were to fax to specific partners as well as coordinators, to use email in parallel, and to ask partners with email to contact other partners in their region when a matter was urgent. What could not be solved was the problem of partners with a coordinating role but without email which led to less effective attainment of objectives. From the GNOSIS self-evaluation questionnaire (Appendix A) it appears there is a consensus that in future programs all partners must have email and be able to access a central electronic document archive. The resultant volume of material, however, requires a filtering mechanism.

6.5 Document Dissemination

Major problems of electronic document exchange and collaborative editing have become prominent as GNOSIS moved into the documentation phase. Partners use widely different document processing technology and it was initially not easy to exchange documents and to consolidate different contributions into overall GNOSIS reports. A solution that minimizes the workload of individual partners, and tools that enable documents in one format to be converted to others have been obtained. All of the work package coordinators and most of the partners are now able to transport documents with full typography and diagrams in electronic form either through email or on disk. In a future program it might be appropriate for all partners to use a common document processor available on multiple platforms.
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