Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Engineering (Research)


Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering

First Advisor

Mr. D. Fallon

Second Advisor

Dr. J. Harhen


This thesis outlines research work carried out in the Mechanical & Manufacturing Department in Cork Regional Technical College, Ireland. With computers now having an increasingly dominant role in all areas of business, it was inevitable that computer-based project management packages would become more popular. To date however, these packages have concentrated on monitoring and controlling projects. The definition and brainstorming phases required to generate a project plan are still largely manual tasks. Planning a project initially involves generating a complete and organised list of all the tasks needing to be completed in order to achieve a project’s goal. This list is referred to as the work breakdown structure (WBS).

An expert system is an application, normally computerised, which utilises expertise gathered from experts. An expert is a person considered an authority in a particular field, because they are among the most practised and skilful in that field. An expert system for aiding the generation of project plans, would not only result in the generation of more accurate plans in a reduced time, but would also free the experts to carry out more intuitive tasks.

The system developed in the course of this work is called, WBSGen, or Work Breakdown Structure Generator. WBSGen is a Windows-based system, which enables the user to generate a WBS by piecing together groups of tasks from a comprehensive library of previously defined tasks. The user has the option to customise any of the groups of tasks selected, to suit the project being planned.

When this list is complete, the option is there, if required, to check the generated WBS for potential conflicts. These conflicts are based on expertise which suggests that generally certain tasks would not be found together in the same project. Additional to this feature is an algorithm that can allocate precedence relationships to the generated plan. This algorithm is also based on historical information gathered from experts.

WBSGen runs in conjunction with Microsoft Project. The generated plan is exported and presented in Microsoft Project in the standard Gantt chart view. This plan can then be monitored or adjusted appropriately as the project progresses.

To date WBSGen is a prototype. It is hoped that in the future the database of knowledge will be extended so that the system can cater for a wider variety of project types.


Submitted to the National Council of Educational Awards May 1997

Access Level