August 12, 2016

Is Knowledge Transfer Planning an Issue in Your Company?

The natural desire of good men is knowledge. – Leonardo da Vinci

It would be difficult to argue with the wisdom of Leonardo da Vinci about the pursuit of knowledge.  In addition to being a brilliant artist, da Vinci was an accomplished engineer and scientist, with outstanding accomplishments in the diverse fields of civil engineering, chemistry, geology, geometry, hydrodynamics, mathematics, mechanical engineering, optics, physics, pyrotechnics and zoology.  With such a vast repertoire of knowledge, it is fortunate that at the time, accomplished men were expected to take on talented students as pupils or apprentices in order to pass on their knowledge over years or even decades.

Today’s world does not generally encourage such long-term transfers of knowledge.  The complexity of work today, along with the drive for ever-greater efficiencies, has encouraged both the specialization and mobility of skills.  Companies hire people for specific tasks as those tasks become necessary, and reduce staff when times are lean.  To attempt to ensure that knowledge is not lost during these reductions, record-keeping has become central to the long-term success of businesses.  But does recording-keeping actually result in knowledge transfer?

To be perfectly clear, it is necessary to differentiate between three different terms that often get confused; data, information, and knowledge.  Data refers to raw information with little or no context.  Information is data in context.  Knowledge encompasses the application of that information.  From the reliability perspective, data would be the results of some condition monitoring activity (oil analysis results, vibration monitoring measurement, a single thermography image), information would be that data in the context of the historical data for that piece of equipment (historical oil analysis results, vibration measurements, or thermographic images), and knowledge would be the understanding of what to do with that information (the historical data combined with maintenance records, Root Cause Analysis reports, etc.).  Record keeping tends to be very good at collecting data, only fair at retaining information, but tends to fail at transferring knowledge.  In the rush to keep the equipment running, the records for what was done and why are often overlooked.  More importantly, the mental process that arrives at what to do and why is rarely retained.  When the person with the knowledge of what to do moves on (and these days, with a highly mobile workforce it is “when” and not “if”), it often becomes necessary to try to develop knowledge from data or information, consuming time and resources without a guarantee of complete success.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Benjamin Franklin

To combat this, it is necessary for a company striving for success to not simply manage data or information (though this is important), but to plan for transferring knowledge from those who have it to those who do not.  As with any planning exercise, there is a goal that must be defined and steps that need to be followed.  The goal in knowledge transfer in reliability is to have a competent and effective reliability team, capable of providing quantifiable results.  The steps you need to follow include determining what data needs to be collected and how the data is to be retained (data management).  Next, a process for interpreting the data in a consistent and repeatable manner must be established and documented, with a process for retaining and accessing the interpretations (information management).  Finally, time must be spent with your current reliability personnel mentoring your new personnel in order to get them up to speed (knowledge transfer).  Depending on the complexity of the reliability functions at your company, the aptitude of the incoming personnel, and the mentoring skills of the existing reliability team members, it could take several weeks or months to get the new staff functioning at a proficient level.  The complexity of knowledge transfer is such that if it is not done deliberately, with a firm and detailed plan, it is likely to fail to some degree, costing you time, money, and reputation.

An alternative exists, however, that can shorten or even eliminate this knowledge transfer time period.  You are provided with personnel who can offer you with observable and quantifiable reliability improvements in short order.  Further, the risk of losing your investment in training and developing new personnel is avoided altogether, and often at a cost significantly lower than the salary of a single skilled employee.  By outsourcing your company’s reliability function to Fluid Life’s CARE (Condition Assessment & Reliability Evaluation) program, you engage a team of trained reliability specialists who work with you to establish the goals and metrics that are important to your bottom line.  You have access to all of your information through our web-based myLab database which allows you to log maintenance events, establish lubrication routes, plan your analysis, and monitor the metrics you establish.  You receive reliability alerts, warning you of potential issues in time to address them in a planned and deliberate manner rather than as crises.  Your Fluid Life CARE Specialist meets with you regularly to ensure that your reliability program is achieving the goals you  have set, while also immediately alerting you should anything need your immediate attention.  Best of all, the CARE program is scalable, both up and down, to meet your ever-changing business needs.  CARE becomes a part of your reliability team, but one that manages your reliability knowledge for you.

Leverage Fluid Life’s expertise and experience to achieve your reliability and profitability goals. Contact a Fluid Life representative about the CARE Program today.