The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M. for distribution to NAPM affiliate newsletters. 

Knowledge Management
April 19, 2001

Here are a few notes and my comments from one of the presentations at the IT conference in Pasco, WA, April 18.

Speaking: Andrew Bartels, Vice President and Research Leader at GIGA Information Group

The topic was Knowledge Management and he spent most of the time talking about Knowledge Management as it relates to E-Commerce.

E-Commerce models and workplace use of information technology (IT) are changing. IT is no longer just a tool to facilitate the transfer of data. Instead it is becoming a tool of Collaboration. That is, new business models use IT to help various people and organizations add value to a process through iterative involvement. Rather than using IT to speed up the hand-off process, IT tools now make it possible for organizations to work together.

An example would be the difference between writing a report and routing it through various departments to get comments as opposed to assembling a cross functional team to brainstorm. Another example would be production, purchasing, suppliers, and carriers all sharing and contributing to a central material availability report. In both examples; changing the paradigm from "do your part and then hand it to the next person" to a "let's get together" makes a significant improvement in the outcome.

To make this possible, there have been major advances in Information Technology. Web-based tools and data warehouse tools have advanced so that collaborative models are very powerful, easier to implement and much more cost effective. However, there also have to be corresponding (and very significant) business process changes. Organizations need to stop compartmentalizing information, functions and data. They need to share information rather than guard it. Suppliers need to know the production schedule to do a better job of making material available on a just-in-time basis. Better, yet, key suppliers need to participate in the production planning process.

The tools exist today, but the business model changes to encourage sharing of information and knowledge are slow to be adopted. Knowledge Management is the generic term which refers to the collection and sharing of data and information in an organization. Imagine how helpful a database of potential vendor stock outages would be to a scheduler when doing planning. If the carrier knew that another shipment to the same location was planned for tomorrow and that production was going to be delayed for several days because a key piece of equipment was being repaired, could the vendor and the carrier collaborate to save us some cost? If Planning knew the same information could production be adjusted to work around the broken equipment and save maintenance some overtime cost? If Marketing knew all this could they inform the customer and save us some embarrassment? To do this, business have to let go of information that once was considered secret.

As Bartels described, the new advances in E-Commerce models, redefine "private" vs. "open" data; encourage "collaboration" rather than "facilitation" and the "sharing" rather than "transferring" of work objects. E-Commerce suppliers are now moving beyond "how many do you want, please submit the order.." to helping end-users navigate and manage the complete supply chain.

Bartels used an example of technology automating the "cow path". Here is my spin on that example.

The process of requisitioning a product used to be a winding "cow path" of requirements, reviews and signatures. Workplace tools such as fax machines, computers and spreadsheets added lights, road signs and bridges to the path. The internet, MRP software and E-commerce have built freeways to replace the paths. The next step in collaborative "one-stop shopping" solutions will eliminate the need for a path.

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Last Updated: 11/26/2016