Application of Fuzzy Cognitive Maps for Modelling OSH Management Systems

Anna Sklad

Fuzzy Cognitive Maps as a Research Method Based on Practical and Theoretical Expert Knowledge

Commonly Used Tools Supporting Decision Making in OSH Management

Fuzzy logic is not logic that is fuzzy, but logic that is used to describe fuzziness. Fuzzy logic is the theory of fuzzy sets, sets that calibrate vagueness (Husain et al. 2017). Fuzzy logic is often associated with sophisticated mathematics that are difficult, if

not impossible, to be used by people with general mathematical knowledge. Few people know that the intention of the creators of fuzzy logic was to make it applicable exactly in those fields where numbers and complex mathematical records were unnecessary. The aim of this study is to introduce fuzzy logic and present the possibilities of its application in the enterprise management process, and, more specifically, in the field of occupational safety and health (OSH) management. It is suggested to use for this purpose the fuzzy logic-based method known as fuzzy cognitive maps (FCM).

For effective management, it is necessary to simultaneously analyse the processes executed in the given enterprise as well as external factors and processes that directly and indirectly affect them. Only a comprehensive view of the entire organisation and its context will enable effective planning of activities, including anticipation of problems, identification of opportunities, and reacting in crisis situations. Taking action based on fragmented knowledge about an enterprise may lead to unintentional results. Affecting an individual process without knowing which other factors influence it and w'hat the consequences would be may lead to uncontrollable changes in this process and in the entire management system.

Considering the above, one should ask a question about the possible methods of gathering and processing knowledge which is needed to manage an enterprise. One of them may be the application of key performance indicators (KPIs) which enable the summarising of the most important trends of processes and phenomena occurring in the enterprise and the enterprise context. However, to calculate the values of KPIs it is often necessary to regularly collect and process information from different sources, which is both time-consuming and costly. Furthermore, the value of a KPI needs to be compared over determined periods of time to make it possible to pick out trends. Therefore, having once decided on a certain set of KPIs, an enterprise needs to consequently keep on calculating them as long as it wishes to keep track. Obviously even small change in KPI definition might interfere with conclusions regarding trends and thus make the information obtained less useful. On the other hand, the dynamic environment in which enterprises operate constantly enforces the updating of indicators. Unfortunately, development and introduction of processes to calculate updated measures sometimes takes longer than the maximum available time for making the decision.

Another valuable sources of knowledge about enterprises, on the basis of which management decisions are made, may be conclusions and recommendations from audits, both those carried out by external institutions and those performed internally by enterprises. Usually presented in audit reports, such conclusions and recommendations are subject to analysis, as a result of which actions are taken relating to specific recommendations. Auditors investigate various aspects of an enterprise’s operation and present their findings to the managers in charge. This is a stimulus to develop a plan of recovery from non-conformity, failure or crisis situations which prevents or breaks the chain of adverse events. However, a plan of remedial actions prepared under pressure from an auditor, unless thoroughly discussed with all interested parties, although aiming to improve the way the given field works, can in fact influence (not necessarily positively) other fields and change them in an unpredictable and unintended way.

A comprehensive look at an enterprise’s operation might be achieved by mapping of business processes using standard notation, usually BPMN. The process map is in this case a diagram illustrating processes in the form of consecutive activities with responsibilities set out, as well as an indication of applied tools and documents. The use of such a map makes possible the monitoring of the compliance of processes introduced in practice with those mapped, analysing the processes in terms of possible improvements or designing new processes so that their introduction does not disrupt the existing ones. The imperfection of notation is, however, that it does not allow combining processes with objectives (Rosing et al. 2015), which limits the usefulness of maps as tools supporting improvement of management effectiveness.

Obviously, significant knowledge resources concerning an enterprise are possessed by its workers. Well acquainted with the entire organisation and its individual elements, basing on the experience gained and having a very detailed knowledge of individual processes about what may improve the functioning thereof and what will worsen it, workers are sometimes not able to convey this knowledge in the way that enables this knowledge to be used in the decision-making process. The tools applied for this purpose in enterprises mainly include mechanisms for gathering improvement suggestions from workers or information regarding non-conformities they notice. Such tools certainly contribute significantly to solving important problems in an enterprise’s operation. However, although research confirms their effectiveness (Andriulo and Gnoni 2014; Lawani et al. 2017), each suggestion is considered separately and the knowledge of possible improvements and identified risks is with a significant delay subject to comprehensive analysis in the context of, for example, the OSH management system.

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