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Expert Systems with Applications 24 (2003) 239–246

www.elsevier.com/locate/eswa

A knowledge-based system to improve the quality


and efficiency of titanium melting
Eric W. Stein*, Mark C. Pauster, David May
Management Division, School of Graduate Professional Studies, Penn State Great Valley, Malvern, PA 19355, USA

Abstract
This paper outlines the application of a knowledge-based expert system to assist the furnace production staff in diagnosing and correcting
Electron Beam (EB) guns, which are used to melt titanium. The characteristics of a titanium melting facility, its business objectives, and the
responsibilities of its furnace operators are reviewed. Alternative solutions to the problem of accurately troubleshooting EB gun failures are
discussed. The chosen solution (i.e. the knowledge-based system) was in alignment with the company’s on-going Continuous Improvement
efforts designed to improve operational efficiencies and thus was met with support. Next, we discuss the costs and benefits associated with the
system. The project has a payback of less than two years and produces a modest positive cash flow over a three year period. Other potential
savings in the form of additional product revenues, however, could be in excess of $1.6 million dollars. A description of the system
architecture is provided along with a review of the knowledge acquisition process. Development, testing and implementation of the system is
reviewed. Finally, the impacts of the system on the company are discussed. The impacts include improved task performance by providing a
more structured problem solving environment, improved training and significant reductions in employee learning curves (50 – 100%),
improved equipment diagnostics, and support for continuous improvement initiatives.
q 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Decision support; Knowledge-based system; Expert system; Decision making; Information technology; Document management; Work processes;
Manufacturing; Continuous improvement; Quality; Electron bean guns; Titanium; Furnace; Melting; Metals

1. Requirements analysis A Maintenance Execution Performance System (MEPS)


integrates the functions mentioned above, effectively
1.1. Introduction delivering the knowledge and support material to front-
line employees when they need it (Emmott, 1999). The
The knowledge-based expert system described in this knowledge-based expert system described here can be
paper (referred to as ElisaBeth), is designed to aid furnace considered an instance of a MEPS.
operators in the diagnosis and correction of electron beam Despite claims to the contrary, expert systems are alive
(EB) gun problems. This system is related to a family of and well and continued to be used in several industry sectors
software systems that help to minimize manufacturing including manufacturing. For instance, a recent search of the
equipment downtime as a result of scheduled preventative Compendex engineering database using the keyword
maintenance or unscheduled repairs. ‘expert systems’ produced 8773 citations since 1990 and
For example, Computerized Maintenance Management 1239 between 1998 and 2002. Narrowing the search to
Systems (CMMSs) improve productivity and address include expert systems and ‘metals’ produced 84 citations,
equipment reliability concerns by managing maintenance about half of which were in the past 5 years. These articles
resources, such as hourly maintenance personnel. Electronic focus on the use of expert system in the production of steel
Performance Support Systems (EPSSs) provide just-in-time and other metal types. For example, Cao, Zhang, and Yin
information to similar staff while Interactive Electronic (2000), Koichi, Yasuharu, Hiroshi, Yuji, and Masaaki
Technical Manuals (IETMs) use CD-ROMs to deliver repair
(1992), and Koichi, Yoshiyuki, Masateru, Masaaki, and
and maintenance information online. All of these
Susumu (1991) report on the use of expert systems for blast
systems provide just-in-time information or training to
furnace operation; Rolland et al. (1991) and Tikasz, Bui, and
workers to perform specific equipment maintenance tasks.
Potocnik (1990) report on an expert system for process
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ 1-610-648-3256. control and the supervision of aluminum smelters; Van de
E-mail address: ews3@psu.edu (E.W. Stein). Putte, Haers, Peeters, and Vansteenkiste (1999) explain how
0957-4174/03/$ - see front matter q 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 9 5 7 - 4 1 7 4 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 1 5 2 - 5
240 E.W. Stein et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 24 (2003) 239–246

expert systems are being used to control steel production. on-the-job training and hands-on-experience. A failure of
Narrowing the search further to include only expert systems one of five guns on either furnace will drastically reduce
related to titanium reveals their use to estimate fatigue productivity on that furnace, or worse, result in a complete
properties (Jeon & Song, 2002), to evaluate extrusion cessation of melting. Such a failure will typically have an
processes (Stepanskij, 1994), and for metallurgical analysis adverse effect on product quality.
(Meltsner, 1991), to name a few. So the conclusion of our Troubleshooting EB gun problems in the past has been
search is that expert and knowledge-based systems continue based on intuition, experience, and simple, on the spot
to play a role in the production of metals and related analysis, typically involving consideration of several
compounds. This system described in this paper appears to symptoms at once. Training in this aspect of the operation
be one of the first that supports the production of titanium is extremely difficult and such a situation can be worsened
using EB gun technologies. with the mental fatigue typically encountered in back-shift
operations. Although steps can be taken to reduce the
1.2. Context and problem description occurrence of EB gun failures, failures will occur from time
to time given the complexity of the process.
1.2.1. Organizational setting Several alternatives exist to address EB gun failures. The
The Morgantown (PA) facility of Titanium Metals primary method is to rely on the tacit knowledge of the
Corporation (Timet) provides an example of one of the operators. Years of hands-on experience have provided
largest commercial application of EB gun technology. Used some operators with valuable insights into the operation and
to melt commercially pure titanium and titanium alloys, the performance of EB guns. However, the knowledge derived
technology is an integral part of this 15 year-old facility. from this method of problem solving is often inconsistent
Developing titanium alloys and products efficiently through and may result in excessive downtime. Timet currently
EB melting is a key core competency for this organization, provides employee training on its process, safety and quality
exhibiting many of the major characteristics of a core procedures and this program can include training on
competency: utilizing collective learning, coordinating troubleshooting EB gun problems. The results of procedural
diverse productive skills, and integrating multiple streams training have been somewhat effective, although operators
of technologies (Prahalad & Hamel, 1990). are generally not receptive to a text-based classroom
Approximately 50 of the 140 hourly employees at this training environment. Alternatively, flowcharts can be
location are directly responsible for the continuous placed in each control pulpit to provide a ready reference
operation of three EB cold hearth refining furnaces. These for troubleshooting gun failures. This practice is currently
hourly workers (referred to as operators throughout this utilized for a few other smaller sub-systems of the furnace
report) oversee round the clock operation of this equipment, and it has been modestly successful. Given the limited
which comprises a total of 15 guns with similar parts and success of these approaches, other alternatives utilizing
similar operating characteristics. At the heart of each of the technology were considered.
furnaces are the German-made EB guns, which provide the
source of energy to melt titanium raw material into ingot.
1.2.3. Proposed system solution
The requirements of continuous production present many
personnel challenges to operating EB guns. The lead ElisaBeth was proposed as a solution to the problem cited
operators direct each furnace crew, the members of which above. It was conceived as a knowledge-based system to
will typically possess at least 7 years of furnace operating assist operators in troubleshooting EB gun problems,
experience. Furnace managers and back-shift foreman thereby supplementing existing informal problem solving.
support the lead operators, but are on-site for only 17 of The system would walk the user through a set of diagnostic
21 weekly turns and must split their time among the questions to identify the root cause of the problem. Once
furnaces accordingly. The educational background of the identified, the system would provide recommendations for
furnace operators generally includes of a high school corrective action. During the session, the user would be able
diploma, although a few possess 2 year technical degrees.

1.2.2. Problem description and alternatives


The operation of EB guns requires knowledge of key
principles in electrical engineering and physics. Several
electrical and mechanical sub-systems coexist, including
many closed-loop systems, to generate a stream of electrons.
The complexity often results in a misunderstanding of the
true causes of failure during the diagnosis of an EB gun
problem. Limited classroom training on EB gun operation is
provided for all newly hired EB operators. An operator’s
knowledge in EB gun operation is primarily derived from Fig. 1. Before and after implementation of system.
E.W. Stein et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 24 (2003) 239–246 241

Table 1
Analysis of alternatives
P P P
Benefit (þ) dimensions Weight KB system V1 ð wxÞ Current V2 ð wxÞ HR solution V3 ð wxÞ
(0–1) (3–1) operations (3–1) (3–1)

Improves decision quality 0.2 3 0.6 1 0.2 2 0.4


Improves decision consistency 0.2 3 0.6 1 0.2 2 0.4
Improves decision speed 0.1 3 0.3 1 0.1 2 0.2
Promotes knowledge reuse 0.05 3 0.15 1 0.05 2 0.1
Reduces training costs 0.2 3 0.6 2 0.4 1 0.2
Encourages learning 0.2 2 0.4 1 0.2 3 0.6
Provides an audit trail 0.05 3 0.15 1 0.05 2 0.1
Total benefit 1 2.8 1.2 2

Notes: 3, best score; 1, worst score.

to access a graphical representation of an EB gun (which Furnaces from 1998 to 2000. EB gun failures accounted for
would delineate the various parts of the gun) to aid in the a total of 415 h of furnace downtime over a 3 year period,
diagnostic process. At the completion of the session, the which was about 11% of the total for all causes.
results would be printed and stored in a database or in This equates to about 139 h per year downtime for both
another format (i.e. as doc or htm file). furnaces (e.g. 95 h per year for furnace B plus 44 h per year
The system would make explicit the operator’s tacit for furnace C). Direct manufacturing expenses can easily
knowledge and help streamline the decision-making process exceed $400/h. At this rate, the loss associated with EB
required to accurately diagnose and correct gun problems. downtime can be estimated to be $55,600 per year or
Formerly, an operator would rely upon the knowledge of $278,000 over a 5 year period.
available human resources and personal experience, as A cost-benefit analysis (Table 2) indicates the impact of a
shown in Fig. 1. conservative 25% reduction in the duration of each gun
This experience is a product of knowledge acquired from failure. The analysis shows the project’s total present value
several years of operation and represents two of the four over a 3 year period is modestly positive using the
primary methods1 associated with knowledge creation company’s historical hurdle rate of 20%. Direct costs to
(King, 1999): using past experience and learning from set-up, install and operate the system include software
others. The system would augment these two methods by licensing costs, installation time, PC hardware costs,
providing systematic and structured problem-solving pro- software maintenance, and training and documentation.
cedures. In addition, it may be possible for the system to The cost-benefit analysis above does not include any
encourage experimentation by allowing operators to analyze favorable impacts on furnace production; i.e. recovered
the data collected of action – outcome pairs. Other benefits
production time that can be put to use melting additional
of the system would include providing operators with a
consistent and reliable sets of recommendations based upon
the input symptoms. Repeated use of the system would help
to reinforce an operator’s understanding of the fundamen-
tals of EB gun operation. This would be an especially useful
benefit to newer employees. These cumulative benefits are
summarized in comparison to the other options considered
in Table 1.

1.3. Justification for the solution

1.3.1. Cost-benefit analysis


A knowledge-based system designed to expedite EB gun
troubleshooting offers several tangible benefits. The effect
of decreasing the duration of individual gun failures through
improved operator response can best be understood upon
review of the company’s Furnace Breakdown statistics from
1998 to 2000. Fig. 2 shows operating statistics for B and C
1
Systematic problem solving, using past experience, learning from
others, and experimentation. Fig. 2. EB gun breakdown contributions for two furnaces (1998–2000).
242 E.W. Stein et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 24 (2003) 239–246

Table 2 fostering processes to retain decisions made and actions


Cost-benefit analysis of system taken, which can then be reviewed and improved upon.
YR 0 1 2 3

Benefits per year 2. Design and development


Reduction in furnace 13,900 13,900 13,900
downtime
2.1. System description
(25% £ 139 h £ $400/h)
Total benefits ($) 13,900 13,900 13,900
The system that was implemented, which is referred
Costs per year
to as ElisaBeth, is a knowledge-based system designed to
Runtime software 12,500 0 0 0
licenses aid operators in diagnosing operational problems with EB
Development software 2500 0 0 0 guns. It was developed with an easy-to-use rule editor
licenses and deployed on a commercially available runtime
Installation 1500 0 0 0 decision support system (DSS) platform.2 The system
Hardware 3000 0 0 0
runs on a standard PC running Windows 95, NT, 2000,
Other equipment 1000 0 0 0
Software maintenance 0 2000 2000 2000 or later. These PCs are located in the control pulpits of
Training and 2000 1000 1000 1000 the three furnaces (one per furnace), which are
documentation networked to the company’s intranet. The system may
Total costs ($) 22,500 3000 3000 3000 be run as a stand-alone application or it may used in
Net such as way as to access other company-wide appli-
Cash flows ($) 222,500 10,900 10,900 10,900 cations such as the data acquisition system.
Cumulative 211,600 2700 10,200 The interactive program begins by asking the pulpit
Discount rate 1.2 1.44 1.728
Total present $5903
operator a set of general questions about the nature of
value the failure and drills down to more specialized ones as
the session continues, self-pruning as it goes. The
Knowledge base development (about 95 h) was not included in this
knowledge base is broken into several modules to improve
analysis since it was an in-house expense.
the ease of maintenance. The main module (Fig. 3) begins
by determining which of the three furnaces is being
analyzed, its state of operability (e.g. operative –inopera-
product. In this case, a savings of 139 h of furnace time tive) and requests some identifying information from the
translates into approximately $1.6 million in additional operator. Once this information is entered, the system
annual product revenues according the following formula sequentially tests six EB gun conditions: air focus,
chamber pressure, voltage and current, water return,
Additional product revenues cathode ray status, and gun pressure. If a condition is
¼ 139 h/year £ 3300 lbs/h £ $3.50/lb ¼ $1,605,450 out of specification, a task solution is recommended for
that situation, and the user may optionally view the
appropriate ISO procedure related to the task.
Other benefits not part of this conservative analysis Throughout the session, data capture is on-going. A user
include an increase in on-time shipments and a decrease in report and session log is displayed at the conclusion of the
product quality liability resulting from EB gun failures. session. A text-based log is also generated that summarizes
all inputs, thus providing the user with an opportunity to
1.3.2. Alignment with company initiatives review and confirm his or her selections. The user may also
obtain a hard copy of the log as a reference to use while
A knowledge-based system designed to reduce equip-
making repairs in the field. All key information is written to
ment reliability issues aligns well with the current
a comma-delimited file, which may be opened in a
Continuous Improvement (CI) Program. Employees are
spreadsheet or a database. Optionally, all values can be
expected to participate in Timet’s CI Program, which written to Microsoft Access for further analysis.
includes initiatives aimed at improving equipment
reliability, on-time shipments and product quality. The
2.2. Knowledge identification and elicitation
EB gun reliability team and the cathode unit (part of the
gun) change-out team are recent examples of manage-
The knowledge base was constructed from information
ment’s commitment to improve the effectiveness of the acquired from two major sources: text-based and human-
organization. Favorable project results may realistically based knowledge. The primary sources of text-based
prompt similar applications to other parts of the
manufacturing process. The application of ElisaBeth at 2
Contact E. Stein (one of the authors) at ews3@psu.edu for more info on
the company further contributes to learning and CI by the software.
E.W. Stein et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 24 (2003) 239–246 243

2.3. Knowledge representation

The knowledge base is composed of over 20 modules


that deal with different conditions and furnaces (Fig. 3). The
first module does the intake and writes pertinent information
to the database. The rest of the knowledge base is divided
into segments dealing with operable and inoperable types of
gun problems and is further divided into problems of an
electrical or thermal/mechanical nature. These are at least
six modules that deal with various trouble-shooting
conditions per furnace. Since the system handles three
different furnaces (e.g. furnaces A, B and C), there are over
18 knowledge base modules that that are loading into the
working memory of the DSS as needed. In total, there are
over 200 rules in the combined knowledge base. During
runtime, the system will chain from one module to the next
as required.
In a typical session, the user is prompted for general
Fig. 3. Overview of knowledge base architecture.
observations about the problem. This includes feedback on
the gun’s ability to operate and whether the problem is
knowledge for the system included troubleshooting pro- electrical or thermal/mechanical. The user’s responses lead
cedures (developed years ago) and the operational manuals the dialogue to subsequent knowledge files dealing with
furnished by the gun manufacturer. Many of the on-the-job progressively smaller gun sub-systems. ElisaBeth continues
diagnostic procedures were generated in the late 1980s and to narrow down the area of concern until the system has
were structured in a symptom vs. probable cause format for enough information to make a recommendation.
a variety of electrical and mechanical gun problems. Similar
knowledge was contained in the operation and maintenance
manuals provided by the manufacturer of the guns at the 3. Testing and implementation
time of the original purchase of equipment. The format of
both sets of information was conducive to rule-based 3.1. Testing and evaluation
structures often used in expert systems, which typically
suggest possible actions after an operator enters the 3.1.1. Validation procedures
observed symptoms. Unfortunately, although much of this ElisaBeth was validated in two ways: functional
knowledge is still relevant, very little of it was being validation and performance validation. Functional vali-
referenced in current operations. ElisaBeth’s knowledge- dation reviews the functionality of the program and the
base provided a means to make this information more comprehension of the knowledge base, much of which was
widely available and utilized. accomplished during the early development phase. How-
The primary source of non-textual knowledge came from ever, representatives from the three different user groups
employees comprising three different user groups: senior evaluated the prototype for functionality and knowledge
operators, junior/entry level operators, and foremen/mana- completeness. Later in the process, ElisaBeth was placed
gers/engineers. For instance, years of hands-on experience into operation in one control pulpit for a 3 month trial
have provided senior operators with a wealth of knowledge, period. The effectiveness of the trial was enhanced by the
most of it in the form of heuristics and some of which is ability to capture verbal feedback from the users upon
tacit. For the most part, the knowledge of the senior users review of the user reports and session logs. The use of the
was used to populate ElisaBeth’s knowledge-base. system was observed and one of the designers examined the
Although it was relatively easy to incorporate the text- reports and logs and made corrections as necessary. Users
based knowledge into ElisaBeth, the larger challenge was in were instructed to insert the time of consultation and a brief
extracting the tacit knowledge from the employees men- remark on the effectiveness of the recommendation. Three
tioned above. Initially, the prototype of the knowledge base senior operators, representing the primary user group, were
came from information derived from one of the author’s given the opportunity to evaluate the system against a set of
experience and from the available texts. Later, individual specifications, which included:
experts from the user groups were consulted to amend and
refine the knowledge base. This method, however, was less † follows a logical sequence of questions;
effective than observing the operators utilizing ElisaBeth † questions are clear and concise;
during a 3 month trial period prior to full implementation † user report and log are helpful;
and making adjustments as necessary. † recommendations are easily understood;
244 E.W. Stein et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 24 (2003) 239–246

† contains questions/answers for all possible scenarios; Table 3


† dialogue re-affirms user’s present knowledge of gun Analysis of type 1 and type 2 errors
operation; Event Decision-classify Decision-classify
† recommendations are logical and accurate; full treatment partial treatment
† selection of answers is complete.
Full (true) True Type 1
Partial (true) Type 2 True
This data was very useful in refining the system. About
the same time, the operators were provided with the
opportunity to create their own sample problems to evaluate can be minimized by on-going efforts to successively refine
the accuracy of the knowledge base. The text-based log the knowledge base.
document provided at the conclusion of a session also Overall, there are two major types of impact errors
assisted the user in providing helpful feedback and filling associated with the system (Table 3). Type 1 errors are false
any gaps in the troubleshooting sequence. negatives and Type 2 errors are false positives. In this
Performance validation was conducted with the senior analysis, a positive assessment is a complete diagnosis of
operators during the 3 month protocol analysis. In addition, the nature of the problem and specification of its treatments.
a second user group of junior and entry level operators were Type 1 errors occur if the system fails to provide an accurate
involved in verifying the functionality and the ease-of-use and complete solution to the gun problems occurring. This is
of the system. The latter group’s relative lack of experience the more significant error associated with the system. In this
provided valuable feedback on the degree to which the scenario, the gun is put back on-line and it fails again
system was user-friendly and easily understood. Engineers because an incomplete solution was recommended. This
and managers were the third user group involved in the results in further delays and incurs the production costs
validation process and their feedback was helpful in associated with the guns not producing product. It is
verifying the functionality and the accuracy of the rule-base. important to minimize errors of this type.
Over time, ElisaBeth is expected to perform as well, if Type 2 errors occur if the system specifies treatments that
not better, than the average employee operator. This is based are not actually needed and the operator performs
on the observation that human experts are not consistent in maintenance on the guns that is not really necessary (i.e.
their methods of diagnosis for identical problems. This similar to the problem faced by automobile owners who
phenomenon has been observed repeatedly during 15 years may pay for unnecessary repairs at the garage). While this
of operation and may be a result of inconsistent levels of incurs additional costs in terms of materials and labor (and
user training, stress, and possibly back-shift fatigue. The some marginal increases in downtime for the guns), it is the
system will thus promote consistent problem-solving. lesser of two evils.

3.1.2. Error analysis 3.2. System maintenance and enhancements


While it is difficult to fully predict the errors associated
with the system, several factors can generate uncertainties 3.2.1. Maintenance
and result in errors. These problems can be attributed to both ElisaBeth’s rule-base must be maintained and updated
the system and its users. For instance: periodically in order to remain an effective tool for
troubleshooting gun problems. Omissions in the trouble-
† the user makes an incorrect observation or selection; shooting sequence will be a focus for much of the
† the user misinterprets questions/answers during the maintenance activity. The primary source of information
consultation; for maintenance issues will be the user reports and session
† the system has incomplete knowledge; e.g. it is presented logs. User responses found in the logs will help capture
with a problem/symptom not coded into the knowledge omissions and lead to future rule-base corrections. One
base; individual will be responsible for system maintenance and
† the system has incorrect knowledge and consequently will provide monthly reports of system use to members of
recommends an incorrect solution. the melt shop production team. The system thus aligns well
with the committee’s current focus, which is on implement-
One of the more significant pathing errors can occur if ing programs that make employees more effective at their
the user selects the wrong problem classification (e.g. individual responsibilities. Management support for the use
operable or inoperable) at the beginning of a session. While of ElisaBeth is critical to ensure an adequate flow of
there is a 50% chance of this error, a wrong selection feedback on the effectiveness of the system.
becomes readily apparent; i.e. the user would recognize that
further questions have little to do functionally with the 3.2.2. Enhancements
problem at-hand. Errors associated with users can be The electrical and mechanical systems that support the
mitigated by additional training and support. System errors EB gun operation possess an abundance of existing
E.W. Stein et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 24 (2003) 239–246 245

hardware capable of providing analog outputs to a database


or spreadsheet. This presents a huge opportunity for future
system enhancements. For example, instead of asking for
manual input from the user about cathode and filament
currents, this data could be directly retrieved. Furthermore,
these data, and data collected by the knowledge-based
system itself, will be useful in improving the overall
quality of the trouble-shooting routines, thus creating the
opportunity for CI.

3.3. Implementation issues

3.3.1. System training and installation


Operators represented the most important user group for
training on this system. However, given the relatively
Fig. 4. Impact of DSS on learning curves.
simple Q & A format of the system and the experience of the
operators with other information systems, this was not a benefits, especially to recently hired operators. The system
significant problem. For example, operators interact on a is anticipated to produce a significant reduction in the
daily basis with the company’s data acquisition system and learning curve associated with the operation of an EB Gun.
a PLC Logix system, both of which involve more difficult Anecdotal evidence already shows a dramatic positive
interface logic, but have presented very little problems for change in new operators’ understanding of critical EB gun
this user group. ElisaBeth’s queries use language and functions. The estimated time to become proficient is
concepts that are a part of the operator’s basic training. In expected to drop from 2 to 4 years to 1– 2 years (Fig. 4).
light of these factors, minimal training was necessary and This change represents a significant reduction of 50– 100%.
two 4 h classroom and lab sessions were deemed to be It is likely to have a positive impact on employee
sufficient. Another factor in favor of learning the system was satisfaction and morale.
the fact that employees recognized the inherent value in Improved diagnostics. The systematic collection of data
terms of job enrichment of learning new procedures and regarding gun problems provides an opportunity for
techniques. improved diagnostics for the guns. For example, this
Installation of the runtime software was easily accom- information might reveal which gun problems are encoun-
plished by downloading the installation files from a web tered more frequently and identify gaps in the inference
site, running the install packs, and starting the program from sequence. Trend analysis of the data from the knowledge-
the Windows desktop. Installation of the knowledge based base system and the electro/mechanical systems may lead to
development editor was similarly easy until the corporate improvements in trouble-shooting routines and recommen-
operating system image was revised, which limited the dations. Performing a regression analysis of key indicators
updated installation. This issue was resolved by building the (e.g. the cathode current) might suggest certain preventive
application directly on the machines at the site. maintenance routines that were otherwise undetected. Such
improvements would support the goal of encouraging a
continuous learning environment.
4. Results and impacts

4.1. Results and organizational impacts 5. Conclusions

While the project is still in the early phases of ElisaBeth is a novel approach to reinforcing, and
implementation, the results thus far are promising. The improving, an understanding of EB gun operation. The
impacts of the system can be broken into task performance runtime software offers a user-friendly interface within
improvement, training and employee satisfaction, and which to perform diagnostics, which is a critical aspect in
improved diagnostics. assuring user satisfaction. The justification for ElisaBeth is
Task Performance. In terms of task performance, the new found in both hard cost savings (such as training) and in
system provides a more disciplined framework for the EB several intangibles such as improved product consistency
gun diagnostic process. Overall, the information is com- and quality resulting in increased delivery performance, and
plete, consistent and readily accessible as compared to the ultimately in customer satisfaction. Operators will play a
use of manuals and variable operator knowledge. critical role in developing and refining the knowledge base,
Training. It is important to note that the system, which is which is expected to result in increased job satisfaction
aimed at helping to diagnose the most complicated gun since they will have an impact on improving the reliability
problems, will offer the company significant training of the furnaces they operate.
246 E.W. Stein et al. / Expert Systems with Applications 24 (2003) 239–246

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