Discourage Knowledge Hoarders in Your Manufacturing Business

Discourage knowledge hordersA group of my friends get together once or twice a year to split wood. I live in a “many hands make light work” community, and as a bonus at the end, I get to go home with a pallet of wood. I’ve observed that, like a lot of day-to-day activities, you can liken splitting wood to repetitive manufacturing.

On the shop floor, you bring the material (logs) to the work center (splitter), you split it into two or more smaller logs, you palletize it and the skip loader comes in to put away the palletized wood.

Our core work group is usually the same, but sometimes we have a substitute. Most often it’s their first experience splitting wood and they learn by observing. First they learn to most efficiently palletize and shrink wrap, followed by when to bring the logs to the splitter and determine when the split log is the right size to take off the splitter, until eventually, if they want to, they get to run the splitter. Once everyone is cross-trained, they can step into just about any position to help out.

I think that is a lot like how manufacturers train their employees and it’s a lot like how all of the departments are run at IQMS, in particular my Quality Assurance department. In the beginning, we train the newbie, trying to go over the basics without overwhelming them (but really, this is quality assurance for robust manufacturing ERP and MES software – realistically it is somewhat daunting with software of this size and capabilities).

Then we give them minor tasks to do, including testing the software in an area they are familiar with and working on customer reported issues. Each activity allows them to use different tools and resources until at about three weeks, they are flying solo a good part of the day and producting smart, thoughtful questions.

Eventually, my Quality Assurance specialists cross-train on most modules (and by cross-train, I mean one day they are handed a task to work on, because it’s best to learn by doing). This allows me to pool resources so if a specialist is particularly busy, another can step in to seamlessly help out.

On a larger scale, all departments at IQMS follow the “many hands make light work” dictum. The majority of us start in the Technical Support department to get our training and we are able to help out in just about every department as we gain experience.

What about your business? Are you encouraged to share knowledge and experience, or do you have hoarders amongst your departments? If there are knowledge hoarders, encourage them to share. They won’t lose their job and they just might get to take a vacation!

Tina Jolicoeur, IQMS Director of Quality Assurance, previously worked for 15 years in the telecommunications field. Tina is responsible for growing and cultivating IQMS' quality assurance department.