This paper describes and reflects on the implementation of a Knowledge Based Holistic Design Support System – termed “HolD” – into a business environment. The paper introduces the rationale and development behind the system, a consciously different approach to traditional knowledge based systems in engineering in order to meet the requirements of a small business, producing bespoke low volume products. Typical knowledge based engineering systems rely on explicitly codified knowledge which often supports product optimisation rather than creative design activities. Such a system would provide little benefit to a business producing bespoke products. Instead, the system presented here, supports the creativity of designers through codified tacit knowledge input by designers as meta‑data for past designs. The problem of individual inertia in adopting the system and sharing knowledge was approached early in the construction of the system. The steps taken to lower user barriers and encourage day‑to‑day use are detailed, including the design of a multi‑stage input process designed to interact at key stages of users' existing processes. The immediate results after a six month trial period are presented and the results show slower than anticipated usage. In particular designers were found to be reluctant to input detailed information beyond common identifying data and did not attempt to seek information from the system. The reasons for this slower usage are discussed and possible solutions presented. The paper therefore provides industrial based evidence of the inertia encountered when implementing a knowledge system and argues that technology alone is insufficient to overcome this inertia.
Keywords: engineering design, knowledge based systems, ethnographic study, fixture and tooling, design re-use