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Industry 4.0

What do a mechanical loom, an electronic controller and the internet have in common? They each represent a different industrial revolution humanity has experienced.

The first revolution was mechanics-based, the second was based on electricity and the third on electronics. The fourth revolution, aptly named Industry 4.0, is based on the internet. More precisely, it is based on three fields which have greatly developed during this past decade: digitation, the Internet of Things and cyber.

Merging advanced technology has led industries to establish "smart factories", based on the following elements:

  • Smart production: digitizing means of production in factories, including automation, big data analysis, simulation tools (for planning production processes), etc.

 

  • The Internet of Things (IOT): virtual communication between physical objects, i.e. different devices in the factory. The connection between the components of the broad operation system enables the collection and analysis of information to improve the control of devices, components and means of production. We can detect our flaws and act upon them based on the accumulated information.
  • Cyber protection: The connection of various components into one network and enhancing the use of automation has increased our need to protect our systems from external threats.

Industry 4.0's management approach is based on a number of principles:

  • Maximal flexibility of production lines which allow them to adapt to the frequently changing market
  • Saving time and resources during the planning stage by simulating the production line or product
  • Saving time and resources during the production stage: automation processes replace human workers previously tasked with arduous, dull work. Workers thus evolve into "knowledge workers".

How will these affect the field of Knowledge Management?

Generally speaking, technological developments require focused expertise, which lead to more unique, professional knowledge of higher value. The knowledge retaining process, in turn, gains more value subsequently. The fast development rate and the demand for flexibility requires the organization to implement changes highly frequently and efficiently. This is where Knowledge Management can provide support.

Technology will never replace people, yet it will affect work processes, the knowledge and information workers require and the rate of processes involving the development, sharing and flowing of knowledge.

It is essential for knowledge managers to be familiar with the new technologies that will affect our industry in the near future, including IOT, Big Data, AI and Augmented Reality. These tools can support work processes (first and foremost: data flowing processes) regarding their development and intelligent use of organizations.

 

References:

 

 



Top-Down is Out: Democratizing Knowledge in Industry 4.0 
Human-Centered Dissemination of Data, Information and Knowledge in Industry 4.0

Information Design

Information design is a field which deals with planning and design content and the 'environment' in which it is presented in order to improve the manner in which information content is transmitted to the reader. The field deals with the optimization of data, information and knowledge so that it can be utilized comfortable and productively in the organizations' day-today lives involving clients, suppliers and partners. Naturally, information design uses the user's perception as central tool. It might seem as a doctrine solely based on the information's external form. This is however false. Real information design focuses on two complimentary sides in order to create a content solution which suits the organization: external information design and internal information design.

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Innovation Capital

A community's ability to regenerate is expressed in rights and reserved patents, knowledge assets and other tacit assets that are not manifested (especially not in accounting balance sheet). Managing a knowledge balance tells of innovation capital. Innovation capital is part of the intellectual capital balance which refers to human capital and innovation capital as substantial components, beside the organization's other physical and traditional assets (e.g. structural capital, customer capital).

There's a saying that goes "a good product sells itself". This perception is not true in all cases. Information systems, like most work solutions, are efficient tools for upgrading a work environment; yet nevertheless require many guidance and implementation activities. There are two major reasons why an information system does not 'sell itself':

  1. Information system are not always intuitive and needs operational/process instruction regarding its manner of operation.
  2. The system symbolizes changing old habits. Most of us find it hard to change old habits and therefore need help to implement them.

Implementing/instructing an information system requires completing a number of stages:

  • General Instructing to the entire target audience: Activity within the target demographic to describe the tool's structure in detail, its manner of use, expectations and new work processes. Efficient tools: frontal instruction, experience, user manual, explanatory booklets, tutorial.
  • Personal guiding of key personnel of the target audience: performing a one-on-one instruction with key personnel and "knowledge intersections" focusing on practical operation and direct experience.
  • Showing Presence around the target audience: "roaming" the field and showing availability for questions. Actively approaching random users in order to assure they indeed understand how to use the tool.
  • Telephone calls to key personnel and random users: asking questions such as: do you use the tool? What is the last activity you performed and when? Are you satisfied?
  • Remote activity monitoring: without the users known, performing initiated checkups on the tool's level of usage, using two methods: "wandering around" the tool and checking its content's level of update and using statistical tools.
  • Neutralizing old/contradictory work processes: most of us prefer to use work processes which we are used to. If we have a chance to use them again, we will indeed do so. We need to help the users drop their old work habits.

So what is the difference between this and implementing a Knowledge Management solution?

In a KM solution, besides the process described above, we must take into consideration two factors of great importance that add complexity to the implementation:

  1. A knowledge Management solution includes, beside changing work habits, also dealing with inhibiting factors (that exist, if at all, much less in regular information systems):
  • A cultural fear of change.
  • A fear of competition and the individual's fear of losing power by sharing the knowledge he/she possesses.
  • Generation gaps.
  • The benefit from this sharing is unclear (WIFIM).
  • There isn't any time- sharing knowledge is not perceived as part of work.
  • The worker identify with their unit, but not necessarily with the organization as a whole.
  • A lack of consistent sharing of knowledge due to work habits, organizational structure, fear of exploitation.
  • A low placement in the organizational hierarchy of the subject in which the Knowledge Management solution was established.

Therefore, the implementation must consider these subjects among others when actualizing the plan by scaling it. The recommended method includes three stages: First, performing a Knowledge Management pilot that illustrates the need and gives the users an appetite for Knowledge Management; then, performing a moderate Knowledge Management project in order to generate awareness and habits for the new 'lifestyle' and finally, launching the full KM solution as a new lifestyle in the organization.

  1. Initiating classical instruction/implementation processes for Knowledge Management processes is not always possible: In some cases, the target audience is too wide and the classical instruction/implementation is irrelevant. Even if we did complete an instruction one time, this is insufficient. On the other hand, the technology is simple and is reminiscent of the internet in which users do indeed learn independently. We therefore try to rely on the tool to "teach its users" how to operate it, while we market it and persuade the target audience of its advantages and its feasibility of use.

 

Main marketing methods:

Rational persuasion: proving to the user that the new tool is an improvement compared to the existing tools and using it will benefit them and their environment (Written explanation, examples at meetings, frontal explanation).

Direct experience: Exposing users to the new tool for an active experience and see for themselves "through their fingers" its advantages and innovativeness. This can be done through usage competitions (not necessarily for evaluating production, rather just to get people used to the tool and expose them to it).

Direct marketing: External advertisement companies try to associate products with a psychological feeling (clothing with popularity, alcoholic beverages with sex, cars with social status). This can also be done when marketing a new tool: a slogan, a logo, performing a fun, routine-breaking activity which symbolically illustrates the products advantages (and associates it with fun).

Serial advertisement: flooding the work environment with messages regarding the new tool: signs, slogans, mentioning the tool in every meeting, a grand launching event, pamphlets, booklets, catalogues, advertisement and greeting cards.

Constructive competition: if content experts are scared of sharing knowledge we will create an atmosphere in which those who do share knowledge are praised and each expert's contribution is highlighted. If the units are meant to build subsidiary websites with relevant knowledge, we will make sure that Department A will indeed build these sites, which will automatically cause its competitor Department B to ask to join (there is always a department that views any department we choose as competition). It's amazing how great this method works in Israeli organizations.

Furthermore, we also recommend a special implementation method-customized implementation:

The rationale is that after regular instructions and implementations, we can still find users who oppose the tool or those who find its operation difficult. The method includes working with each group manager and building an implementation network, customized especially for him/her. The customized network isn't built from a blank page, rather from a range of options from which each manager chooses what suits his/her group best with an option to contribute innovative ideas. The method's advantages are that in most cases group implementation programs are 80% similar, but we earned two benefits from this method:

  1. The remaining 20% indeed create the best network for the team and therefore improve the implementation's success.
  2. More importantly-the implementation plan is printed and signed by the group manager. It is his/hers and not ours (the Knowledge Management team). The manager's level of commitment to the plan's implementation is orders of magnitude greater than ours. Remember, the managers' commitment is the key to the implementation's success.

(For more details on the customized implementation method,  see the October 2004 issue of 2know).

The bottom line:

Implementation and marketing are a delicate and complex issue. There no "known" models and no schoolhouse solutions. Yet there is indeed a difference between the regular activity in a "straight forward" information system and the implementation and marketing of a Knowledge Management environment. The guidelines and principals described above have been proven efficient. The implementation process requires planning and creativity prior to its execution and patience during it. The bigger a solution is and the more it requires the entire organization to go through a mental change, the more the activity needs to be performed gradually, convincingly, persuasively and patiently.

Good luck!

Insight

An insight is a tip, lesson or practical recommendation for a practical method which can be generalized in order to be reused in similar situations. The knowledge encompassed in this insight is informal knowledge which was formulated in one of two ways:

  1. Passive: as a discovery or understanding derived from experience (either negative or positive) during the work process.
  2. Active: a product of a cumulative personal/group lesson learning process.

An example of an insight is a case of a research & development worker conduct an experiment of melting certain food ingredients. During the experience, the worker notices that melting the ingredients has affected the flavor of one ingredient and finds an alternative method which does not result in these side effects. After implementing this discovery/insight in a similar case, it is proven that the alternative technique is indeed proven as a worthwhile technique (i.e. it can be generalized for future use). Of course, insights can be discovered by the individual during his or her work, or by a team brainstorming or collaborating on its knowledge.

 

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