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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Automation in Construction, Volume 12, Issue 3, May 2003, Pages 303–320
Case handling is a new means for supporting flexible and knowledge intensive business processes. Unlike workflow management, which uses predefined process control structures to determine what should be done during a workflow process, case handling focuses on what can be done to achieve a business goal. In this paper, case handling is introduced as a new possibility for supporting construction processes. The construction of buildings and related facilities is a difficult and complex process, which requires both support and flexibility. This paper describes the application of the case-handling principles within Heijmans. Heijmans is one of the leading companies in the Dutch building industry and is interested in IT support for their construction processes. We have used the case-handling system FLOWer to provide automated support for preparing the construction of complex installations. In this paper, we report our experiences.
Construction processes are notorious for their complexity and changes during the process ,  and . Many attempts to provide automated support for these processes have failed. Today's processes in manufacturing, logistics, and the service industry are supported by information systems. These systems help workers in monitoring, executing, and controlling business processes. This support is enabled by rigorously structuring the processes. Automated support of business processes typically improves performance (e.g., reduced flow times and increased throughput), reduces labor costs, and increases quality (e.g., less errors) . Given these observations, it remains a challenge to apply these systems and principles to construction processes in the building industry . Nowadays, many administrative processes are supported by workflow management systems. Workflow management systems such as Staffware, IBM MQSeries Workflow, COSA, etc., offer generic modeling and enactment capabilities for structured business processes. By making graphical process definitions, i.e., models describing the life cycle of a typical case (workflow instance) in isolation, one can configure these systems to support business processes. Besides pure workflow management systems, many other software systems have adopted workflow technology. Consider, for example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems such as SAP, PeopleSoft, Baan, Oracle, as well as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Despite its promise, many problems are encountered when applying workflow technology. As indicated by many authors, workflow management systems are too restrictive and have problems dealing with change , , , , , , ,  and . Many workshops and special issues of journals have been devoted to techniques to make workflow management more flexible , ,  and . Some authors stress the fact that models should be as simple as possible to allow for maximum flexibility . Other authors propose advanced techniques to support workflow evolution and the migration of cases of one workflow model to another  and . If the process model is kept simple, only a more or less idealized version of the preferred process is supported. As a result, the real run-time process is often much more variable than the process specified at design time. The only way to handle changes is to go behind the system's back. If users are forced to bypass the workflow system quite frequently, the system is more of a liability than an asset. If the process model attempts to capture all possible exceptions , the resulting model becomes too complex to manage and maintain. These and many other problems show that it is difficult to offer flexibility without losing control. In this article, we focus on the application of workflow technology to construction processes. Given the fact that contemporary workflow management systems such as Staffware and IBM MQSeries Workflow have problems providing operational flexibility, it does not make sense to try and apply these systems to construction processes. Therefore, we propose an approach based on the case-handling paradigm . This paradigm is supported by a case-handling system named FLOWer . We consider construction processes in the building industry the acid test for case-handling. The work reported in this paper is the result of a project conducted within Heijmans Bouw. Heijmans Bouw is part of Heijmans N.V. that operates in the construction industry and related industries. The main activity of Heijmans Bouw is the realization of buildings. Heijmans Bouw represents Heijmans N.V. in all sectors of the private and business housing. Fig. 1 is used to describe the scope of the project.Heijmans Bouw divides its projects into four phases (Fig. 1): Project Development Phase (PDP), Preparation of Execution Phase (PEP), Realization of Execution Phase (REP), and after care. The main focus of Heijmans Bouw is on the execution, i.e., PEP and REP. Especially in the PEP, management and control of the project is important and can be very effective for the whole project. For managing its projects, Heijmans Bouw uses so-called project manuals. An example is the PEP manual. This manual contains standard documents and schedules and has been an important starting point for the work presented in this paper. It should be noted that despite the existence of project manuals, no computer support for controlling and managing any of the four phases shown in Fig. 1 existed. The research project described in this paper focuses on the application of the case-handling approach in the PEP. We have applied this approach to the preparation process of semi-prefab concrete floor elements and the preparation process of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) installations. Automation seems particularly useful for these two processes. To find out the possibilities of automation for the selected processes and to get inside the processes, a process model has been developed. Important aspects in making the process model are the required flexibility and the level of detail in defining the activities. Both aspects are needed to be able to customize the process model to multiple projects. If the activities are defined in too much detail, the process model becomes difficult to adjust and re-use is limited. However, by defining the activities at too high a level, the process model cannot be used as a stepping stone for a system that really supports the PEP. The process models of the preparation process of semi-prefab concrete floor elements and the preparation process of HVAC installations indicated that these processes could be automated. The required flexibility is translated by modeling loops and optional routings in the process model. The level of detail in defining the activities is comparable to that used in the project manuals. Given prior experience with the manual, this is acceptable. Based on these experiences, a prototype was developed to clarify the possibilities of a case-handling system for the two processes. The prototype enabled a discussion about the possibilities of such a system. Some workers of Heijmans Bouw were asked to test and to evaluate the prototype. The results of the test were evaluated and translated to the complete PEP. The reactions on the prototype were mainly positive. The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. First, we introduce the case-handling method. Then we discuss the suitability of this method in the building industry. Based on this we describe the case study conducted within Heijmans. First, we discuss the process model for the considered process parts. Then, we describe the prototype and the experiences with the prototype. Finally, we conclude with general observations.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This paper is focused on the use of workflow management systems in construction. The successfulness of using workflow management systems in other industries was the reason for developing and carrying out the research described in this paper. In fact, two different worlds came together in this research: on the one hand, the world of ongoing, scientific research on the use of workflow management systems in parts of the industry in which well-structured, data-related processes take place, like in assurance companies and banking. On the other hand, the world of construction, which can be described as unstructured processes involving a lot of uncertainty. Bringing these two worlds together led to a two-forked approach to the research: • Can the concept of workflow management used in the production industry be suitable for unstructured processes? As a result of the specific characteristics as described in this paper, the construction industry is a very interesting part of the industry to investigate this research question. • Will workflow management improve the control of processes in the construction industry? This paper shows that both questions can be answered positively to a certain extent. It can be concluded that also unstructured processes like the construction industry can be modeled, on condition that the user can make choices about the relevance of certain routings and besides this can skip or redo activities. This means that application of workflow management in the industry will be interesting for more companies than the typical “administrative factories” (e.g., insurance, banking, and government) described in Ref. . This makes the application of workflow management to the loosely structured processes of Heijmans highly relevant. Carrying out research on and developing systems that cope with these kinds of unstructured processes have to be the main objectives for the forthcoming years. The research described in this paper also shows that the construction industry, which is an industry with a high amount of failure costs, can be improved by using a specific form of workflow management, namely, case handling. However, using this kind of system means a big change from the current way of working within the construction industry. Developing this concept is a great opportunity for the construction industry. Therefore, case handling has to be placed on the research agenda to further investigate the possibilities, e.g., the specific impact on processes and people within the construction industry needs to be investigated in more detail.