This paper reports on a web-based groupware tool intended to support large distributed teams of engineers in modern engineering design practice. The Advanced Design Coordination Tool (ADCT) presents itself to members of a design team as a shared on-line set of engineers’ notebooks with flexible editing, filing, viewing, browsing, and searching capabilities. Additionally, its use of product, process, and decision representations referencing an explicit domain ontology, and tied together by dependency links, introduces artificial intelligence technology that enables capabilities beyond simple unstructured design history capture. The resulting repository can capture a rich and structured design rationale, which, with the system’s state management and versioning capability, enables recording active as well as rejected alternatives. The system currently exploits the captured data to improve team coordination: it applies dependency processing algorithms to automatically generate notifications to appropriate team members, based on changes to design notes or the detection of design conflicts. Over time, the accumulation of structured design histories with rationales should provide the basis for a knowledge repository that can proactively offer advice on new design challenges. This paper first sketches the context that makes this tool desirable, and then describes the system’s design and key capabilities. We finish with a discussion of limitations and future enhancements.

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