Social product development tools and knowledge retention in manufacturing

Social product development tools and knowledge retention in manufacturing


A growing number of manufacturing companies are dependent on the experience of aging workforce. Often process guidelines or rules are left undocumented. Even more various decisions taking by product development and manufacturing are undocumented too. It might be decisions and information about how products are defined, designed and developed.

Human experience is a critical factor when it comes to new product development. However, if previous knowledge was not captured, the chances are manufacturing can repeat mistakes made previously.

Historically, CAD, PDM and PLM claimed that structured data and well documented processes are the important element in the process of capturing knowledge about product development and manufacturing. It is still very valid assumption. To manage data is a fundamental element of organized product lifecycle. But to be honest, people don’t like formal data management and processes. It is often hard to use. Although many companies are implementing PDM and PLM systems today, the real knowledge about important decision points often left outside of these systems.

With the increased popularity of mobile and social applications, variety of information left outside of formal product development loop. More often companies are using social networking and collaboration tools. I shared some of thoughts about Slack as a potential platform for engineering collaboration.

BostonInno article These 2 HubSpot Alums Are Turning Slack Into a Wiki. What caught my special attention is the focus on knowledge and data retention. Here is an interesting passage that speaks about it:

Tettra, which went into beta Wednesday, works by hooking into your Slack account and then generating a wiki based on all the documents and conversations within your channels. The idea, Cook and Joyce said, is that it can be difficult to stay on top of all the documents that are being uploaded to Slack, especially if you’re a new employee coming in. Tettra’s interface neatly sorts all of the documents and conversations, and any additions you make will be reflected right back in Slack. “One thing it’s really good for is unlocking team knowledge that already exists,” Cook said.

PLM companies were looking at social networking and related social communication technologies in the past. My hunch  PLM probably missed some important pain points in the past when experimented with social PLM tools. Tettra idea made me think that focus on knowledge retention can provide an interesting twist and bring product lifecycle applications to rethink social product development approach.

What is my conclusion? Knowledge retention is pain point that can potential bring PLM software developers to rethink social product development concepts. With the increased ability to collect information and make analysis, new social PLM tools can potentially solve two painful problems for manufacturing companies: how to retain knowledge and bring new employees up to speed with earlier decisions in design, engineering and production. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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