Stemming the Loss of Knowledge Capital: A Business Fix for Canadian Manufacturers

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  • Published: June 21 2007
The clock is ticking for Canadian manufacturers to come up with a solution to the ongoing loss of knowledge capital. Natural employee attrition, such as departures or layoffs, inevitable retirement, and the brain drain are contributing to an exodus of knowledge. That’s why the best hope for Canadian manufacturers lies in introducing knowledge management strategies across the enterprise—before it’s too late.

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Canadian manufacturers are in danger of losing significant knowledge capital. Natural employee attrition, such as departures or layoffs, inevitable retirement, and the brain drain are contributing to an exodus of knowledge. Canadian manufacturers should introduce efficient and effective knowledge management strategies across the enterprise before it’s too late. By creating a repository of knowledge capital, Canadian manufacturers can increase productivity by leveraging past discoveries, maintaining competitive advantage, and improving customer service.


The pressure is on Canadian manufacturers to reduce costs. Consider a team of engineers and assemblers who have dedicated time and effort to designing and producing a complex project, only to discover a similar project had been done in the past; consider the waste of repeated processes, the missed opportunities, and the cost of design and manufacturing rework. Reuse of what is already learned increases productivity. In an engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturing environment this is particularly significant, as captured knowledge shortens the design and production cycle, and development can be completed faster. It reduces design iterations and manufacturing rework. A knowledge management system may eliminate the need for physical prototypes, as the design will be correct the first time. This streamlines the design process, and increases automation and production efficiency. An effective knowledge management strategy will likely provide the manufacturer significant competitive advantage by eliminating design redundancy and getting product to market faster. After all, in project-based ETO environments, error-free work coupled with decreased design and production times are the keys to being profitable.

Customers are increasingly demanding that manufacturers be more responsive to their needs during the bidding process. ETO projects are often complex, involving a vast number of materials and a range of component equipment.

But to win business, quotes provided to customers must be accurate. Knowing the estimates from similar projects is valuable, as it enables manufacturers to respond to more bids, reuse the information to build better quotes, and provide accurate quotes to customers and prospects. By delivering what is expected better, faster, and on quote, manufacturers are delivering better customer service and at the same time, keeping their costs in line. Additionally, with knowledge management, customer input can be mapped to projects and alternative bids developed to deliver improved customer service. Manufacturers should shift return on investment (ROI) metrics from product-centric measurements to customer-centric.

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