Why knowledge management systems create safer and better businesses

Posted on 28 Jun 2023 by The Manufacturer

Across a multitude of industries, connected workers have become the cornerstone of digital transformation initiatives. Unfortunately, the onboarding and learning programmes in many organisations are just not set up to support workers in the best way possible. Knowledge is power and the bedrock of successful employee experiences.

In a Microsoft survey, 55% of field workers said they received no training in the technologies and tools needed to do their job.

Is there something deeply broken in the onboarding and learning experience and how can organisations change that for employees and their organisations more widely?

The challenges of traditional procedure management

Many industrial organisations face a common problem: their digital transformation requires connected, empowered field workers, but their learning and onboarding experience is not in line with that objective – the digital age requires a digital solution for a traditional problem.

One of the main reasons in many organisations today is a centralised and top-down approach to knowledge management rather than a collaborative one. All too often, experienced field workers know how to perform their job to a high standard, but their knowledge is not reflected in the documentation or learning materials, as much as 90% of the operating knowledge of a plant is only stored in the minds of workers.

This leads to frequent problems: workers are left learning on the fly as they do their day-to-day work. When they look at content and procedures, they only find partial, outdated, or inaccurate information. They also experience frequent gaps between what is described in training materials (the “work as imagined”) and what they can or should do in a given situation.

To make matters worse, training is typically performed in constrained environments – on a laptop or in a classroom – that is far removed from the real-life situations and contexts where information will be used.

How can a knowledge management system help

Organisations need knowledge management systems that are purposely built for critical operational content rather than knowledge being stuck in a classroom environment. Knowledge Management Systems (KMSs) can now be designed to meet the specific needs of the connected worker by providing an experience that’s mobile, personalised, on-demand, and based on the actual work being performed.

Firstly, the gap between work and documentation can be closed by leveraging data based on an employee’s actual work to identify what problems are encountered or what supplemental information needs to be accessed.

Information can even be segmented at an individual or demographic level to create meaningful personalisation of the learning experience but also to provide a feedback loop to improve the content, ensuring that the system is always being refined and improved.

Secondly, critical content can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and from any device. This includes digitising legacy documents and breaking down content into bite-sized pieces of information that can be used on the go for the task at hand. This information can be paired with equipment information to provide a complete picture of the task.

Thirdly, training, collaboration, and mentoring can be intertwined, so that all the elements of a successful learning experience are covered by the KMS. Users can provide instant feedback and flag incorrect information right away. Subject-matter experts can easily review procedures and content to ensure it remains accurate. And by obtaining data on actual work, they can ensure that procedures are followed.

The benefits of using a Knowledge Management System (KMS)

Knowledge is power in every business and a knowledge management system can have a significant impact on both a business and the end user, their employees. There’s an important link between a knowledge management system and employee safety. Human errors can be reduced by giving workers instant access to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), policies, and training content on a mobile device, helping employees wherever they may be located.

Standardising operational content and making it easier to use with AI-assisted procedure authoring can further help to reduce the chance of information-caused incidents. Management effort and administrative involvement are also reduced by standardisation as it reduces the overall amount of operational content which a petroleum, manufacturing, chemical, energy, agriculture, or forestry operation uses on a day-to-day basis.

Enhancing the quality of procedures

The benefits of a KMS reach further than just safety impacts, it can enhance the quality of procedures and content. In many organisations, far too much time is spent reviewing procedures and with a KMS, the number of man-hours needed in asset procedures requiring review and annual procedure reviews decreases. Procedure and content reviews are made easier by allowing field workers to take part in the review process by leaving feedback while in the flow of work.

Reducing the administrative effort of ongoing annual and organic reviews is also possible with a KMS prioritising only the most critical procedures and content for updates – version control and revision tracking can then be used to roll back updates. SOPs can be pushed to multiple facilities or locations within complex operations, reducing the time for administrators, so they can focus more on the most pressing tasks.

Knowledge is power

An organisation’s employees are on the front line and they can be empowered with a KMS to deliver and monitor digital information. Knowledge management systems help to improve operational efficiency, identify areas for improvement, and ensure competencies with the ability to monitor workers as they complete tasks and training content, helping management to help employees better. Frontline employees are busy people and a KMS speeds up processes by giving fieldworkers flexibility while waiting on assets or other tasks to be completed.

Knowledge is power and a knowledge management system can deliver a range of benefits for organisations and end users in critical industries and complex operating environments. Giving employees the right knowledge not only makes them safer but makes an organisation more efficient and streamlined at several different levels.

By Peter Wilson, Senior Industry Consultant at Hexagon