In the industry, more precisely the mechanical industry, the knowledge is everywhere, spread among everyone’s mind and hard drive. The challenge is to capitalise and re-use this knowledge to do better products at better prices.
A few basic principles that help managing knowledge :
- Write guides (how-tos, users manuals,…). As soon as learn something, it is important to write it down. This document will be not only useful for your colleagues but also for you in case you forget how o do it. If you don’t have time to write a nice documentation, you should still open the manual, add the title and put one or two screenshots. This is enough in the action. Then later in the day, take some time to consolidate your texte and share it to colleagues.
- Share documents you write. When you write a document of any kind (a procedure, a calculation report, …), share it ! Don’t just let it on your hard drive or inside a mail discussion between your customer and you. I my office, we have a list of document we wrote, as soon as a document is added each collegues get a mail notification that some new knowledge has been created. People can subscribe to document category and field of application to avoid spam.
- Use follow-up or project logs extensively. Follow-up are important information concerning a project event (a project change, a new risk that pop-up,…). Writting a follow-up should be very quick if you want people to adopt this methodology. I saw in one company, people where using excel list to handle follow-up : people needed to open the windows explorer, find the corrsponding project in the tree view, open the excel file, scroll to the last line, fill in various fields and save the document. This is not the right approach. A powerful alternative would be a mini software or add-in that work like this : when I press Ctrl+F+U a windows pop-up, I type the project number, press enter, type some free text and press enter to finish. This should not take more than 15 seconds. More information on follow-up in rationalK
- Use core-DFMEA and core-PFMEA. As soon as a risk is discover or a process failure occurs you need to store it somewhere. Even if you don’t have the solution to this new problem now. Core FMEA (or generic FMEA) are your basic template from which you derived new product FMEA. As a consequence they are a great place to store knowledge. As some of your curious customers will ask to get a copy of these documents to handle a different public version of these document with less internal knowledge. We have developed a handy tool to manage your FMEAs
- Develop software and use databases. One of the best way to capture knowledge and to be sure it will be re-used is to give to your company software an access to it. A software can be as simple as an excel form. If you already have a software in place that use a database. Do not add new product information in a lost word document inside the ERP or your company intranet but add it instead directly into the database so that people can simply select it to re-use it. Keep the knowledge source in a static place and add a link from the database to the source in case someone need to extend this knowledge.
- Use list of tagged documents. This function is part of any modern document managing system (whether you use rationalK or a windows folder).Try to avoid the folder and subfolder structure to store your document. At some point you will be torn appart because you won’t be able to determine if this document should be in this folder or in this other folder. You will start to duplicate documents. If you don’t know where to store your knowledge, imagine how difficult it will be for your colleagues to find something… Instead, create a list of document with title, link to the document and a tag list. Then since the document is linked inside the list, you can store them anywhere in the disk, it does not matter since you will access them using your list.
- Convert emails. Emails convey a lot of non-formatted knowledge spread inside discussions. Emails are difficult to access for new project members or occasional project participants. If you cannot avoid to use them, do your best to convert them. The most simple way to convert emails into knowledge is to save them (as pdf or msg format) inside your project folder. A more elaborated way is to store each individual informations at their appropriate place : follow-up, fmea entry, risk register, calculation database, general documentation,…