PRO-VE'03 Lugano, Switzerland

The PRO-VE’03, 4th IFIP Working Conference on Virtual Enterprises was held at Lugano, Switzerland, 2003-10-29/31, 62 papers have been presented in two plenary and 18 parallel sessions.

The plenary sessions addressed Trends in decentralised innovation (v. Zedtwitz) and The third wave of internet to allow collaborative working environments(Laso). Topics like research challenges and roadmaps for advanced virtual organisations, collaborative networks and their formation, ontologies, knowledge management, simulation and decision making, enterprise and process models, multi-agent approaches, supporting infrastructures, case studies and best practices have been the subject of the parallel sessions. In the following highlights of selected papers of different topics are presented.

Research challenges and roadmaps: summarising findings of the THINKcreative project a number of recommendations for future research work are identified in areas such as socio-economic and organisation, ethical and moral, formal models and their theoretical foundations, ICT infrastructures, life cycle of virtual organisation evolution (Camarinha-Matos). The need for performance measurements in collaborative knowledge networks is elaborated (Roth and Evans).  A road mapping methodology developed in the VOmap project (Camarinha-Matos and Afsarmanesh) and COCONET Roadmap project (Schaffers et al) are described and exemplified. The Vision e-Company Research Program in its four projects investigates changes in professional and business and identifies standards required by e-business. Project results presented include: a communication services infrastructures for collaborative processes, ways for sharing and integrating customer knowledge, an infrastructure for hosting and managing SME type business processes (Bouron).

Networks: an approach for VE partner search and selection is presented that exploits the use of mobile agents and introduces some security mechanisms in the agents systems (Rabello et al). Capability and compatibility factors of candidate partners have been defined and evaluated and results of the approach tested are presented (Tsakopoulos et al). Requirements for an agent-based approach to support the formation of Virtual Enterprises have been derived by analysing two industrial case studies (Petersen et al). How to achieve a more dynamic establishment of business partnerships? The paper outlines restrictions and simplifications needed for semi-automation of the generic life cycle and describes the services needed to support the resulting e-Business on demand (Hoffner). The V-CHAIN project objective is to migrate from an extended enterprise to a virtual enterprise organisational model providing overall scheduling and sequencing of business process increasing performance by means of a virtual operator deployment that is in charge of process monitoring and execution. (Ortiz et al). Structural mechanisms and configuration factors for networks of firms(NoF) are defined and the latter are linked to “state variables” and “contingency variables” allowing to develop an architecture and a methodology for engineering and integration of NoFs (Zaidat et al). The importance of organisation theory to the concept of virtual organisation is explained. However, more research is needed to transfer theoretical foundations for networking originating from economics or social sciences to the phenomenon of virtual organisations (Eschenbaecher and Ellmann). Organisational requirements of virtual enterprises are discussed and a VE organisational framework based on the role of three entities: Enabler, Catalyst and Broker (ECB) (D’Atri).

Ontologies: Results of the EXTERNAL project - the intelligent infrastructure as a platform for distributed, model-generated workplaces, concurrent development and management of models and meta-constructs, methodologies and customer solutions - are presented (Karlsen et al). An approach aimed at corporate knowledge portal design based on the principles of ontological engineering using visual knowledge/data mapping for information structuring. (Gavrilova and Gorovoy). An ontology based methodology (ODAMY) allowing flexible ontology-based partner integration into existing or evolving business networks is proposed that demonstrates how ontologies can be applied to support a fast, on demand integration of required resources (Weiß and Maedche). To improve interoperability between VE members, different considerations concerning essential requirements for an effective collaboration among humans and between humans and machines are described. A prototype solution using ontology networks is presented (Lepratti and Berger). Exploiting the explicit semantic description of the domain of discourse allows reasoning and automatically acquiring semantic relations between two different domains of discourses. The Harmonise project applies the MAFRA–Mapping FRAmework that covers all phases of the ontology mapping process, including analysis, specification, representation, execution and evolution (Silva and Rocha). Basic concepts and definitions relative to enterprise applications interoperability are defined and demonstrated using scenarios of the three main approaches: integrated, unified and federated. A model to develop interoperability in a federated environment is presented (Chen  and Doumeingts).

Knowledge management: partners in VEs are confronted with their different cultures and the different ways of dealing with ‘knowledge’. They have to remove these cultural barriers and evolve towards a new meta-culture in the course of the their co-operation. A multi-layered framework for classifying cultural barriers in concurrent enterprises is presented and semi-structured interviews are described as means for identifying such barriers (Wolf and Wunram). A framework to support knowledge management in a virtual organisation operating in the mould and die sector is described that applies a knowledge management life cycle during the operation of a VE, to maximise the knowledge capitalisation and dissemination within the VE environment (Celson et al). The e-Hub concept, an extended broker for engineering services, tries to leverage knowledge and experience in the domain of technical product development. The concept is based on the premise that this form of a collaborative intermediate will provide a perfect mechanism for cohesion building and the marketing of SME expertise. The frame of reference for the e-Hub design, development and implementation is presented and the constituent elements of the reference model are deduced and specified (Schuh et al).

Models: In the shipbuilding industries, flexible process integration will be achieved using a P2P (Peer to Peer) architecture for virtual engineering organisations with a semantic process description model to support the process set up and execution. The P2P approach is extended by the concept of communication and collaboration policies to give dedicated partners the required control of the virtual organisation (Kern et al). A modelling framework integrating both static and dynamic points of view on alliance organisations is proposed. Focus is on the collaborative business process design based on a multilevel description: 1) “conceptual” models based on management rules turned into 2) organisational model using alliance collaboration strategy from which 3) operational models can be set (Biennie and Favrel). Process modelling for complex dynamic enterprises requires several vexing types of meta- and trans-modelling. Current approaches are inadequate, cumbersome and impossible for average business users to understand. This paper reports on a newly forming project to tap popular vocabularies for sophisticated abstraction of manifold meta-structures. Focus is on interactions in films. Another is the use of soft logics and group-theoretic metaphoric histories. Significant advances in modelling are expected, both in accessibility to users and in raw formal expressive power (Goranson). Design and construction processes in the building industry are extremely dynamic, because technical conflicts and modified design goals lead to ad-hoc changes within the workflow. Consequentially, there is a need for an overall model-framework representing the different design, construction and management processes that integrate specialised process- and building-models used for different domains (Keller).

Case studies: Web-based applications for virtual collaborative product development and manufacturing have been developed between UC-Berkeley and ITESM, Mexico. A case study demonstrates how collaborative design for High Tech Products can be undertaken (Aca et al). This paper describes a case study based research on current and best practices for collaboration management in manufacturing extended enterprises in an East-West European context. Case study findings show characteristic development paths leading from a simple customer-supplier relationship to the extended enterprise as well as major challenges resulting from cultural, technological and organisational variety (Dold et al). A concept for configuring dynamic and ready-to-implement supply network structures is presented that is based on a business case from the fashion industry where order, logistics and production management processes are entirely consumer-driven. Only after the consumer has placed his order for the made-to-measure fashion product, the actual constellation of partners in the supply network is determined and business processes initiated. The focus is on the methodological approach of defining and modelling the underlying business model (Schiegg et al). Results extracted from the research done in recent EU-projects on current and best practices for maintaining and optimising virtual enterprises (VE) are presented, which are based on the example of a virtual enterprise practised by German SMEs operating in the field of rapid prototyping and modelling within the automotive sector (Wagner et al). A study of the actual processes within an IMS project with ANZAC Ship Alliance, Australia - a VE with 3 partners – the techniques used to identify the information and workflow as well as the relationships with the stakeholders is described. Development of a web-based system that significantly enhances the effectiveness of collaboration within the virtual enterprise is presented (Mo et al)
For more information: L.M. Camarinha-Matos, H. Afsarmanesh, (Eds.), Processes and Foundation for Virtual Organisations, Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 1-4020-7638-X

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