Human engineering activities often deal with design and related tasks. While expert systems in this area should support the human expert by providing additional knowledge about problem fields not central to his expertise, new problems arise out of their use: The human expert not only has to deal with the problems of his own area, but also has to decide which expert to consult at which moment and to interpret the answers of the different computerized advisors. Consequently, the human engineering expert performs a job which might be described by the term design manager.
The IMCOD project aims at supporting this design manager by providing a homogeneous, integrated view of the underlying (local) expert systems. In order to extend the competence of the design manager towards related areas and to achieve a feasible solution from an overall (global) point of view, each local expert is asked to contribute its professional judgement. The IMCOD system acts as a mediator between the user and the underlying local experts (cf. figure 1) in order to combine the different outputs into one homogeneous advice. This task requires the handling of different terminologies, global management of resources and goal coordination, and the evaluation of competing preferences and assessment of expertise of different systems.
Figure 1: IMCOD: Combining local expertise
Based on knowledge about the underlying experts and about the design-specific requirements, IMCOD should solve three principal tasks:
In summary, IMCOD will support the communication between the human expert and the computerized advisors. (It will not deal with direct cooperation between the local experts.) By using IMCOD the human expert has at his disposal a homogeneous working environment which incorporates highly specialized, existing expert systems but relieves the user of the difficulties which arise from their concurrent use. Consequently he should be able to accelerate knowledge transfer, shorten the turnaround times and get higher flexibility and qualitatively improved results by the incorporation of improved professional feedback.