Organisations rely on streamlined, effective knowledge transfer, to educate new starters, share expertise and maintain important corporate insights.
Brain drain (losing technical experience and corporate knowledge) is a major headache for manufacturers, amplified by an ageing workflow in the sector. But, there's a fix. Augmented reality already helps manufacturing companies retain valuable experience through improved knowledge transfer - even at a distance. And, as companies face continued Covid-19 safety measures and social distancing requirements, it's no surprise AR adoption is accelerating further.
Starting from scratch - what is knowledge transfer?
Knowledge transfer is the theory of circulating information from one part of the business, or a single person, to another. While it involves both training and communication, it is somewhat distinct from both. Knowledge transfer focuses on retaining and distributing information that's unique and valuable to an organisation. You can't learn this kind of knowledge elsewhere. The failure to transfer this knowledge can leave employees reinventing the wheel, creating a significant drain on company resources.
The three centres of knowledge
There are three main categories of knowledge; these include:
- Explicit knowledge
- Implicit knowledge
- Tacit knowledge
Put simply. Explicit knowledge is the kind that's easily written down or verbalised. Implicit learning is the application of detailed knowledge. Tacit knowledge is knowledge gained through unique experiences that are difficult to explain—having a 'feeling' for performing a task. Explicit knowledge is the most straightforward to store and transfer over. You can typically find the most return in implicit and tacit knowledge, which are trickier to capture.
The process of knowledge transfer
Preserving organisational knowledge requires a proactive and systematic knowledge transfer program.
A successful knowledge transfer process has five key stages.
1. Identifying experts
Where in the organisation is knowledge stored? Does wisdom come from the top down? Or is the most valuable knowledge held in your production employees? Which employees are due to retire next, taking their expertise with them? These questions are all vital; how you identify experts will be unique to your organisation. However, their colleagues may be the best people to place them. Company-wide consultations and brainstorming sessions can be valuable in recognising expertise.
2.Identifying the knowledge
How do we know which knowledge to retain? Grasping this information can be tricky. Reaching out to coworkers can be valuable, as they may be more aware of their colleagues' expertise or, those they lack. To ensure you overlook nothing, rigour is essential at this stage.
3. Knowledge Capture
The exact method for capturing knowledge will depend on its nature. When easily articulated, interviewing the expert—or asking them to write down a procedure, for example—can be enough. Where it is less explicit, you should consider alternative methods. Teaching others may expose implicit or tacit knowledge.
4. Circulating knowledge
To digest captured knowledge easily, packaging it into accessible materials is the best way. This will probably be a mix of reference documents, reports, instructional videos, work instructions, training programs, mentorships, and AR content. Recorded knowledge may best be viewed in context rather than in training sessions, so materials should be organised and accessible to anyone. Identifying the necessary recipients is also essential so they can gain access to the relevant material.
5. And, repeat
New knowledge is created in your organisation every single day. Addressing an ageing workforce could be the most pressing need, but the knowledge transfer process isn't a one-dimensional exercise. Capturing an expert's knowledge should be a continuous activity. Creating a knowledge culture ensures that everybody is on the same page and can inspire colleagues to be more collaborative in their work approach.
AR supercharges the process of knowledge transfer.
Augmented reality dramatically improves both the capture and dissemination of knowledge. It is incredibly beneficial for capturing tacit knowledge in a teachable, repeatable manner.
Capturing AR knowledge
Experienced employees can easily create training materials while performing their usual roles. Wearing AR goggles or glasses means they can film while they work, using gestures and voice commands to note essential elements of their workflow.
Distributing AR knowledge
Captured knowledge can be fully developed into immersive, location-aware guidance for less experienced colleagues. Using AR guidance means watching videos of a technique or task being performed and seeing 3D animated diagrams and instructions.
Using AR in the knowledge transfer process
Recording work instructions in context, AR can capture implicit and tacit knowledge that experts may not realise they even had. Although teaching this experience one-on-one can work, packaging it as AR content can be more easily and repeatably distributed without relying on memory.
By following AR instructions, employees will remember procedures themselves and make fewer mistakes while learning.