Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Challenges of Knowledge and Information Management during New Product Introduction: Experiences from a Finnish Multinational Company

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Challenges of Knowledge and Information Management during New Product Introduction: Experiences from a Finnish Multinational Company

Article excerpt

Introduction

The ever shortening product lifecycles and rapidly changing customer requirements lead the modern manufacturing companies to practice a concurrent engineering (CE) paradigm. To succeed in CE, efficient communication between individuals from different departments in-house and within the production network is a must. In large production organizations, design and modelling of complex products, their production processes and systems is typically done by multi-disciplinary, often multicultural and geographically distributed design teams. The required cooperation and communication between the teams and each individual member of the team is heterogeneous due to the different IT systems (Information Technology) and platforms, as well as, each member's different specializations, tasks and backgrounds. As stated by Haldin-Herrgard (2000), sharing of all forms of knowledge requires a commonly understood terminology. However, usually each team or individual member of a team is specialized in solving problems related to a given phase of the product's lifecycle, which makes the work content and thus also the used terminology different. Therefore, the communication and sharing of knowledge and information may be challenging. This heterogeneity affects both the communication between the individuals and their interaction with the information systems. Furthermore, the more distance the individuals have from each other's practice, the more difficult it is to communicate the knowledge they use (Crossan, Lane, & White, 1999).

Knowledge sharing can be managed by focusing either on the social dynamics between the members in the organization or management interventions (van den Hooff & Huysman, 2009). Many formal knowledge sharing practices depend on the information systems offering support on information acquisition, organization, storage, retrieval, search, presentation, distribution, and reproduction. The technology often removes the temporal physical and social distance barriers by improving the knowledge sharing process, and locating knowledge carriers and seekers (Thierauf, 2001). On the other hand, also the IT systems suffer from lack of common vocabulary. For example, in product development, for each product several different product models, related to different phases or aspects of its lifecycle, are created and used. Therefore, vast amount of different types of information and CAx-systems (Computer Aided X) are used throughout the whole product lifecycle. As the different systems usually rely on different data structures, this leads to problems with their interoperability. It affects negatively to the transparency between different design teams and departments within an organization and its network.

This article will present a practical case study of the knowledge and information management issues in a large Finnish globally operating company. Knowledge management here refers to the process of creating, sharing, transferring and using of collective knowledge in an organization to help the organization compete (von Krogh 1998). Knowledge always includes the tacit dimension and cannot thus be saved to the IT systems as such (Subashini, 2010; Walsham, 2001). Therefore, the terms information and information management are used when discussing about creating, sharing, transferring, and using content in written documents, emails, information systems, and databases. The study concentrated on New Product Introduction (NPI) process, which consists of the phases from product development and detailed design until production ramp up of the newly designed product. The focus was especially on the interface between product design and production. The focal aim in the practical case study conducted in the company was to recognize the weak points in the current knowledge and information management practices and solutions, in order to be able to improve the organization's knowledge and information management and transparency. …

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