It’s the master tradesman approach: an individual may have done a job for years and then pass it on to others via formal or informal apprenticeships. This not only keeps the company from more broadly capitalizing on what these experts know, but it also puts the company in the dangerous position of having that knowledge walk out the door as these experts retire.
As the company evolves, there is a need to preserve this institutional knowledge by getting experts to document what they know. However, this approach is not always the most effective or efficient. Take, for instance, the writing of standards. Experts are often asked to develop short written documents that convey how to execute a certain task so that others can benefit from that knowledge. The problem is that it can be difficult to concisely explain an activity comprehensively enough so that it’s useful, but not in too much detail that it might prevent people from actually reading it.
Furthermore, these subject-matter experts are generally much more comfortable on the floor “turning wrenches.” They’re not technical writers who are accustomed to developing such content during the normal course of their jobs, so it can take them several hours to create single one-page standards documents. The end result: it’s a burden on the experts, who don’t enjoy the task, and not the best use of their time and abilities.
Manufacturers can use digital methods to more easily and effectively capture and convert this knowledge into institutional knowledge that stays with the company and can be more broadly leveraged across the company. Multimedia platforms are now available that enable workers to easily create instructional content of all kinds, and in ways that don’t require the written word. Such platforms feature safe, secure and structured databases that can accommodate a wide range of content, including video, audio, written pieces, webcam images, screen captures and hyperlinks.
Instead of having to struggle for hours writing how to change a part on a particular machine, an expert can record a video of the process in the amount of time it takes to complete the task and upload it to the platform. In our experience, digital tools can reduce the effort to capture knowledge by more than 80% in general, and as much as 95% or more when simple tasks are involved.