The role of ontologies in creating & maintaining corporate knowledge: A case study from the aero industry

Derek Sleeman, Suraj Ajit, David Fowler, David Knott

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


The Designers' Workbench is a system, developed to support designers in large organizations, such as Rolls-Royce, to ensure that the design is consistent with the specification for the particular design as well as with the company's design rule book(s). The evolving design is described against a jet engine ontology. Design rules are expressed as constraints over the domain ontology. To capture the constraint information, a domain expert (design engineer) has to work with a knowledge engineer to identify the constraints, and it is then the task of the knowledge engineer to encode these into the Workbench's knowledge base. This is an error prone and time consuming task. It is highly desirable to relieve the knowledge engineer of this task, and so we have developed a tool, ConEditor+ that enables domain experts themselves to capture and maintain these constraints. The tool allows the user to combine selected entities from the domain ontology with keywords and operators of a constraint language to form a constraint expression. In order to appropriately apply, maintain and reuse constraints, we believe that it is important to understand the assumptions and context in which each constraint is applicable; we refer to these as “application conditions”. We hypothesise that an explicit representation of constraints together with the corresponding application conditions and the appropriate domain ontology could be used by a system to support the maintenance of constraints. In this paper, we focus on the important role that the domain ontology plays in supporting the maintenance of constraints in engineering design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-172
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Ontology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2008


  • Constraints
  • application conditions
  • ontology
  • maintenance


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