A relation-based approach to Engineering Management Systems
The primary goal of this thesis is to indicate how systems theory and engineering process modelling can be applied to provide models for consulting engineering service business enterprises. The typical management systems used for these businesses are investigated to determine the application of systems and process models. The motivation for this study is based on the fact that integrated management systems for consulting engineering practices are presently based on selective business analysis and process modelling that has evolved over time, as reported in a survey and study by Smit . Furthermore, current engineering management systems are simply computer implementations of management procedures based on techniques that were developed to solve problems in the absence of the computational capabilities of the modern computer. To rectify this, a fundamental approach to analyse the business and management functions using systems theory and engineering process modelling techniques is required, which has not been attempted to date. This study develops and demonstrates the application of fundamental analysis in consulting engineering enterprise management and reviews advantages that can be obtained from using this approach. It is shown that the mathematical Algebra of Relations and associated Graph Theory provide the mathematical basis on which management problems can be treated systematically. Since these fields of mathematics are well developed and very broad, the essential parts of the theories are identified. Thereupon, the application of the very abstract mathematical concepts to two important and typical engineering management problems are developed, which represents the core contribution of the dissertation. The study is developed and presented in two parts and an addendum: 1. The first part provides an overview of the necessary mathematical theory required to support development of business models. 2. Management systems theory and relation- and graph theory-based engineering process modelling techniques are applied in this part to build generic enterprise models and data processing models. These models provide inputs for the management processes of professional service business enterprises. The outcome of the modelling and analysis is a set of database models with reporting functionality, to be used in the management process. A demonstration of technology available for development of the models and techniques, described in the previous part, is undertaken in this part. Generic implementations of database models and reporting techniques for systems which deal with management data in a consulting engineering business are developed, described and demonstrated. 3. In the addendum to the study, typical models and system functionality needed to support the management functions of the consulting engineering service business are identified. These management functions include: • Business strategy and long term planning • Marketing and promotion • Finance, including bookkeeping and auditing • Personnel • Facilities management and document management • Logistics, i.e., management of resources required for the business to operate • Knowledge management • Production management, i.e., management of the execution of project work • Administration • Risk management Production management can use the engineering process model approach, modelling the management of tasks, persons, datasets and tools as these are applied to the consulting engineering business. Sample subsystems to support selected management functions are identified and analysed. The integration of these systems with commercially available systems to support accounting and management reporting can follow from this analysis. The study contributes to the body of knowledge in the field of engineering management by providing insights into the application of a specific branch of mathematics to provide fundamental solutions to engineering management problems. It also shows how these solutions are mapped to the computer, and describes available information techniques and technology to support the mapping. The outcome is a document setting out the theory required to develop robust enterprise management systems, the development and demonstration of technology required to do this and, as an addendum, a high level specification of business and management system functionality required for the professional engineering service business.