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Using Knowledge Management Systems in Manufacturing Organizations

Victoria Fiorini
5 mins
knowledge management systems in manufacturing help warehouse employees as they look up information on tablet

Whether they’re developing new products, exploring new markets, or navigating the supply chain, manufacturing organizations have to deal with a lot of complexities and moving parts. In order to be successful, they need to have systems and processes in place that allow them to manage all of these different elements effectively. Knowledge management systems can play a big role in helping manufacturing companies achieve this goal.  

A knowledge management system (KMS) helps manufacturing organizations better manage and use their knowledge assets. By centralizing and standardizing information, a KMS makes it easier for employees to access the information they need, when they need it. This improves manufacturing processes, product development, and supply chain management. 

We’ll explore the importance of knowledge management systems in manufacturing and how they can give organizations a competitive advantage. 

What Is a Knowledge Management System?

A knowledge management system is a software application that stores and retrieves knowledge to improve collaboration, understanding, and process alignment. It is primarily used to document and share knowledge within an organization, but some knowledge management systems also include a customer-facing knowledge base.

How Knowledge Management Helps Manufacturers

Because of the nature of manufacturing–which is all about designing, creating, and managing product–there are several benefits of implementing a knowledge management system. These include:

Centralizing Insights

When it comes to data, manufacturers face a unique challenge. They must track not only the materials they use and the products they produce but also the machines, tools, and processes used to create their products. This data can be spread across multiple locations, making it difficult to track and manage. 

Knowledge management centralizes meaningful insights from manufacturer data, making it easier to access and use. By storing insights in a central location, manufacturers can ensure that all team members have the latest data-backed information at their fingertips. In addition, knowledge management helps manufacturers keep track of changes and updates, making it easier to identify and correct problems. As a result, knowledge management can be vital in assisting manufacturers in improving efficiency and quality control.

Capturing Employee Knowledge

The workforce in the manufacturing industry is aging: in 2020, almost one-fourth of all employees in this industry were over 55. As employees retire, they take years of experience and tacit knowledge with them. This knowledge loss can devastate manufacturers, leading to decreased productivity and quality. 

Knowledge management bridges this gap by capturing the knowledge of employees and subject matter experts within the company. Manufacturers can ensure that this information is available to future generations of employees by storing it in a central hub. In addition, knowledge management will identify gaps in knowledge and skills, allowing manufacturers to invest in training and development programs to keep their workforce updated. As the workforce ages, knowledge management will become an increasingly important tool for manufacturers who want to stay competitive.

Product Development

Product development is a critical part of any manufacturing business. To stay competitive, manufacturers must continually innovate and bring new products to market. Knowledge management can play a vital role in the product development process. By organizing and sharing information about past projects, effective knowledge sharing helps manufacturers avoid duplication of effort and identify potential risks and problems early on. In addition, knowledge management can help manufacturers keep track of customer feedback and market trends, ensuring that new products are designed with customer needs in mind. As a result, manufacturers can streamline the product development process and bring new products to market more quickly and efficiently.

Standardization of Processes

As manufacturers strive to improve efficiency and quality, they often look to standardize their processes. Standardization helps manufacturers improve communication and coordination between departments, reduce waste and duplication of effort, and improve quality control. Knowledge management can assist manufacturers in standardizing their processes by providing a central location for storing and sharing process documents. In addition, knowledge management will identify process improvements and best practices, allowing manufacturers to implement these changes quickly and efficiently. 

Multi-Location Information Sharing

One of the challenges that manufacturers face is how to best manage and share information when their employees are spread out across multiple locations. A knowledge management system allows manufacturers to share new information in real time and automatically notify employees when new content goes live, ensuring that all team members are aware of the latest updates.

Minimizing Information Overload

A KMS helps with information overload by making it easy for people to find relevant information through keyword searches. Some platforms also allow users to filter their search results by a wide range of criteria, providing an experience similar to online shopping and eliminating the need to dig through folder after folder of content.

Training and Development

A knowledge management system can be a valuable tool for manufacturers who want to streamline employee training and development. It can provide new employees with easy access to information about the organization and the manufacturing process, helping them to hit the ground running. When changes are made to internal processes or technology, employees can use the KMS to update their training, ensuring they are always up-to-date. 

Higher Employee Satisfaction

The 2022 State of Manufacturing report by Enterprise Minnesota surveyed employers and found that 50% cite “attracting and retaining a qualified workforce” as a big challenge to growth. A knowledge management system addresses this challenge by improving employee satisfaction. By making it easy for employees to find the information they need, and giving them a platform to share their own knowledge, a KMS creates a more collaborative and positive work environment. 

How Manufacturers Can Use Knowledge Management Software

Knowledge management practices have seen success in applications such as:

Supply Chain and Vendor Information

One of the most helpful features of a KMS is its ability to manage supplier information. In today’s globalized economy, manufacturers often source materials from all over the world. This can make it challenging to keep track of supplier information, such as contact details, delivery times, and pricing.  A knowledge management system centralizes this information, making it easier for manufacturers to find the suppliers they need when they need them. 

Safety Regulations

Manufacturers must be vigilant in managing safety data and complying with government regulations. Knowledge management software can play a vital role in helping manufacturers to meet these obligations. The software can be used to centralize safety protocols, training materials, video guides, and more. 

Training and Onboarding Processes

With a KM platform, you can streamline the training and onboarding process by providing a hub for training materials. Employees can access these materials at any time, from any location. Additionally, manufacturers can use knowledge management software to hold employees accountable for reviewing essential information and identify knowledge gaps or areas where additional training is needed. This data can also be used to improve the overall efficiency of the training process. Manufacturers can use knowledge management software to ensure that all employees are properly trained and prepared for their job duties.

Choosing the Right Knowledge Management System for Your Manufacturing Business 

When selecting a knowledge management system for your business, it’s essential to consider the size of your company and the specific needs of your employees. For example, if you have a large workforce spread out across multiple locations, you’ll need a KMS that all employees can access regardless of their location. You’ll also want to consider how much information you need to manage and how complex your processes are. Additionally, it’s important to select a KMS that integrates with your existing systems so employees can access knowledge in the flow of their work. Once you’ve considered these factors, you can narrow your options and select the best KMS for your manufacturing business.

August 11, 2022

The Enterprise Guide to Finding a Knowledge Management Platform

Considering a knowledge management platform for your manufacturing business and wondering where to start? Use our guide to learn what capabilities to look for, how to build your vendor shortlist, and how to get buy-in from leadership.

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