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On the automatic generation of workflow processes based on product structures.

van der Aalst, W.M.P.

In: Computers in Industry, Vol. 39, No. 2, pages 97-111. 1999.

Abstract: Workflow management promises a new solution to an age-old problem: controlling, monitoring, optimizing and supporting business processes. What is new about workflow management is the explicit representation of the business process logic which allows for computerized support. Business processes supported by a workflow management system (WFMS) are case-driven in the sense that tasks are executed for specific cases. A case corresponds to a service to the environment. Approving a loan, processing an insurance claim and handling a traffic violation are examples of case-driven processes. A case corresponds to a product that needs to be produced. Although the product is not a physical object, it has an internal structure, i.e., it is an informational object assembled from components. Therefore, the well-known bill-of-materials (BOM) can be used to describe the product that is manufactured using a WFMS. This paper describes a technique (based on Petri nets) to automatically generate a workflow process based on a BOM. It allows workflow designers to think in terms of the end-product instead of the internal process and constitute a basis for the automatic configuration of a WFMS on the basis of a BOM.

Keywords: Petri nets, bill-of-materials, product structures, workflow management.

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