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Improving cross-disciplinary information exchange using a central project database

Gielbert, T.B. (2019) Improving cross-disciplinary information exchange using a central project database.

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Abstract:Introduction: Witteveen+Bos is a large international design and consultancy firm which aims to design large infrastructure, such as dikes, bridges and tunnels. The design process of such large products requires a multi-disciplinary approach, in which different teams use apply their specialized knowledge and perspectives to solve certain problems. These teams need to combine their knowledge to make optimal decisions and design a high-quality product. ANT is a start-up within Witteveen+Bos which started a few years ago, after some employees realized that the information exchange between the teams is sub-optimal. This sub-optimal information exchange is caused by a lack of structure and method, which leads to miscommunications, ill-informed stakeholders and sub-optimal decisions. ANT thinks this problem can be solved with a central project database, which allows for more central and transparent information exchange and storage. The aim of this study is to provide evidence that there are structural inefficiencies in the design process at Witteveen+Bos and that these problems can be solved with a central project database. Approach: This study uses interviews with team members and team leaders to understand how the current design process functions. This analysis investigates what tasks the 4 main teams perform, the interaction with other teams & the client, and the communication channels used to exchange information. This analysis is visualized using a Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) flowchart. A literature study is performed on how Lean philosophy can be used for information management and minimizing information waste. Lean information management is applied to the design process at Witteveen+Bos, which identifies sources of information waste in the design process. An analysis is done on how a central project database can help the design process at Witteveen+Bos, and what the requirements for such a database are, using a literature study and interviews. The improved process using a central project database is visualised using a BPMN flowchart. Additionally, the structure of the database is given. The current process: Currently the design process experiences inefficiencies because there is a lack of structure in information exchange and storage. Team members use different communication channels that often do not allow for synchronous communication. This leads to ill-informed team members and makes it difficult to keep an overview on whether all stakeholders are well informed. The improved process: A central project database will help centralize communication, which in turn makes communication more coordinated and transparent. This coordination makes it easier to make sure that everyone is well-informed and allows for project progress tracking. The main requirement for the database is the use of active building components. These active building components will communicate design changes themselves, so that team members do not have to do this. This reduces the chance of miscommunications occurring. Active building components are established by determining links between different components and designers. This study shows that the improved process has 25 data objects, compared to 61 data objects in the current process. This indicates a reduction in the number of files being shared and stored, reducing the chance of miscommunications occurring. Additionally, the message flows between teams is reduced from 61 to 43. This shows that a database will help centralize the communication channels being used, reducing miscommunication and creating more transparency. Conclusions and recommendations: This study concludes that there are inefficiencies in the design-process at Witteveen+Bos. Most of these inefficiencies are caused by a lack of information-management, resulting in miscommunications between teams and loss of information value. Information-management, in this case a database, will bring structure to the design-process at Witteveen+Bos and minimize efficiencies that are currently present. A big aspect of this database is active building components, which will mean that components themselves will communicate value changes, instead of designers having to do this. This reduces the chance of miscommunications occurring. An important recommendation for Witteveen+Bos is to investigate how to properly implement such a central project database. This study focuses on the design and feasibility of the database, and shows that a database can help solve problems within the design-process. The implementation is however incredibly important, and still a relatively unknown area, which should be studied before taking action.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Clients:
Witteveen+Bos, Deventer, The Netherlands
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:58 process technology
Programme:Industrial Engineering and Management BSc (56994)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/79612
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