February 1996 Volume 23 No. 1
By David Blanchard
The U.S. National Library of Medicine (Washington, D.C.), the world's largest
medical library, has developed an intelligent medical indexing system called
MedIndEx (Medical Indexing Expert). The library has over 4.5 million holdings
(including books, journals, reports, manuscripts and audio/visual items)
that are accessed online by health professionals worldwide. This information
is used to help diagnose illness and disease, as well as for research on
particular biomedical topics.
National Library Develops Intelligent Index
The ongoing indexing of the library's resources is a vital but time-consuming
task. According to Susanne Humphrey, an information scientist with the Lister
Hill Center, a research division of the National Library of Medicine, the
library decided to develop an application that would transform the existing
data entry system into an intelligent knowledge base that combines artificial
intelligence and information retrieval principles. Her idea led to the development
of MedIndEx, an intelligent knowledge base.
With the conventional system, indexers typically had a number of windows
on their screen at any one time. This allowed them to simultaneously view
several different applications or systems that provide data entry facilities,
and a retrieval system that can access the library's medical thesaurus and
other relevant databases. The MedIndEx prototype introduces a new type of
data structure which encodes the combined factual and procedural knowledge
established in the conventional system.
In addition, this knowledge base provides interactive, situation-specific
assistance prompted by the users' interactions with the system. The software
actually aids the indexer by suggesting or prescribing possible paths to
follow in the process of indexing an article or set of articles.
EDS Turns to Virtual Costing
EDS Technology Architecture (Plano, Tex.), an international information
technology company's research group, has developed a visually-enhanced cost
technique called Virtual Activity-Based Costing (VABC), which helps the
company understand how money is being spent at all levels of its operations.
According to Steve Chenoweth, senior systems engineer at EDS Technology
Architecture, with VABC and virtual reality software, management is able
to take advantage of accounting processes to make effective management and
Traditionally, accounting activities have focused on valuing an enterprise
for financial reporting purposes. Costs are identified according to the
category of the expense such as salaries, supplies and fixed costs. In VABC,
costs are charged to the activities where the resources are actually consumed,
allowing the identification of the causes of costs. While this generates
much more information than traditional accounting, this information is critical
to understanding and improving business processes.
This additional information needs to be captured, organized and presented
in a fashion that facilitates comprehension and decision-making. In the
VABC application, each activity is represented by a vertical bar whose height
indicates the cost and whose color depicts the value (green is high, yellow
is medium, and red is low). Surveying this 3-D landscape, the user can determine
what activities warrant further exploration.
One of the first proof-of-concept applications was for the data visualization
of credit union data. The system first shows data displayed in a traditional
manner, and then multi-dimensionally using 3-D visualization. Scanning through
the 3-D horizon, the user sees information in a new way.
Presenting and navigating through this complexity with an interactive, 3-D
user interface allows users to zoom in and out, navigate up and down the
hierarchy, or drill down to the lowest level of detail while maintaining
a perspective of where they have been and where they are going.
Wrangler Replenishes with Neural Networks
Wrangler (Greensboro, N.C.), a manufacturer of men's and boy's jeans, shirts
and knitwear, is using neural network technology in a reengineering effort
to increase sales volumes, lower inventory investments, and improve inventory
turns for retail customers and for the company itself.
An important part of supply chain reengineering at Wrangler has been revamping
product forecasting and production planning. By forecasting production needs
more accurately, Wrangler will be able to maintain a high level of in-stock
customer service while carrying less finished goods inventories.
Most consumer goods manufacturers plan production based on forecasts of
order demand, and Wrangler is no exception. However, Wrangler's order demand
was inconsistent with sales. To improve production planning and forecasting,
Wrangler has begun using neural network forecasting technology. It generates
forecasts based on consumer demand data, rather than retail buyers' orders,
to drive production planning.
This information is combined with consumer sales information to feed a neural
network-based forecasting model. Forecasts are created for each retail chain.
The aggregate of those chain forecasts now drives Wrangler's production
planning. Wrangler's manufacturing and sourcing are now matched up with
actual consumer demand.
Contributing editor David Blanchard is editor of Intelligent Systems
Report, (216) 677-4210, E-mail: email@example.com.
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