Black & Veatch, an employee-owned, global leader in building critical human infrastructure in energy, water, telecommunications, and government services are on a journey to leverage AI-assisted bots, called virtual experts, to better capture and interact with engineering knowledge and standards. The goal of this emerging effort is to experiment with ways to better capture knowledge and expertise within the company. Ultimately, the initiative would lead to a reduced amount of time required to locate the desired information and create an opportunity for continued innovation to better support the future. Knowledge Management is a difficult problem and has had challenges in the past as a discipline. Click here for my take on KM problems in the past.
Knowledge and standards were generally captured in written form, which led to an abundance of Microsoft Word documents that were difficult to search and a burden to continually refresh. Up to this point, access to content was through best practice document and folder organization and traditional search functions. In addition, it was a difficult challenge to obtain feedback on the type of knowledge professionals were seeking or if they found it.
Black & Veatch began working with AI technology and passed these engineering documents through a natural language processing scan to identify topics eventually stored in a knowledge ontology that would be leveraged in real-time chats initially to answer specific questions for engineers working on a substantial number of projects. The company has a team of 30 digital assistants online today that are being rolled out for general use. The professionals who have been engaged so far are pleased with the results and optimistic about the impact of the technology. While there are no hard metrics, the comments have included positive developments such as reduced searching, better feedback on dated content and engaged knowledge sharing. For the first time, Black & Veatch now has visibility to the actual use and the usefulness of the content with various dashboards captured by monitoring the traffic on the bots.
Black & Veatch expects to continue to expand its knowledge sharing to include more topics if the success continues with the current pilot. In addition, the company expects the content will become more diverse to include voice, video and image content. These can be used for equipment installation and maintenance training in the future as well.
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