Immortal Information and Through-Life Knowledge Management (IITKM): Strategies and Tools for the Emerging Product-Service Paradigm

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


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Description The project funded by ESRC was part of a larger EPSRC project on 'Immortal information and through-life knowledge management' in high technology firms where product-service systems are becoming major elements of the business. It is increasingly recognised that technological solutions to the problems of knowledge management are disappointing when insufficient attention is paid to social aspects. Consequently the element funded by ESRC was intended to provide insights into the social processes and methodological assistance to the research partners from engineering departments who wished to develop their own expertise in this area.The first part of the project focused on learning from use in the context of product service systems, and the second part investigated strategic organizational learning and capability development in the context of product service integration. The two parts conducted substantial amounts of fieldwork.Theoretical results from the first part demonstrated the interrelated problems of dealing with both tacit and explicit knowledge, and provide understanding of the barriers to learning from customers, and moving knowledge between different groups of engineers within each company (the 'spatial' problem). The problem of retaining knowledge for products that have increasingly long life-spans were also identified, while the inbuilt technology and systems for retaining information about product improvements become obsolescent with increasing speed (the 'temporal' problem). Other theoretical insight include the effects of power and hierarchy on knowledge transfer within and across boundaries, the processes for sharing knowledge between groups that have different time orientations (entrainment), disciplinary backgrounds (interdisciplinary knowledge transfer), knowledge management implications for the development of 'extended enterprises', and the interactions between technical and social processes in communities of practice. Practical outcomes include: guidance on how to develop local ownership in communities of practice that are initially established by management fiat; the development of expertise networks for transferring tacit knowledge between engineers; strategies for breaking down boundaries between long term project teams; and ways of transferring knowledge between different disciplinary groups. Theoretical results from the second part include: demonstrating the strategic role of organizational learning and knowledge integration in the context of product-service integration; the importance of dis-integration as a complement to knowledge integration; understanding the tensions between managerially-ordained and naturally occurring communities of practice from the perspective of members; understanding the way that communities of practice can mature over time and the impact of HRD, leadership and strategic capability on this process. Practical results include: guidance on how knowledge integration can be more actively considered as part of the KM initiatives and strategies; a tool for evaluating the maturity and supporting the development of Communities of Practice.
Exploitation Route The results of the project are widely applicable in knowledge management in many contexts.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Construction,Energy,Transport

Description Ontology mapping to support semantic interoperability in product design and manufacture 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presented at 1st International Workshop on Model Driven Interoperability for Sustainable Information Systems (MDISIS'08)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity