I know a guy who worked for a large semiconductor company that was going through restructuring and therefore was seeking a large number voluntary redundancies. My pal had given 22 years to this organisation, was extremely hard-working and conscientious (he had taken only 2 sick days in that 22 year period, for instance). Out of the blue he was approached by someone on behalf of a company undergoing restructuring itself, in need of someone with his skill-set (as it happens, he was skilled in test engineering, product engineering, yield management and in recent years, design for test). As he had never worked in any other organisation, my pal decided that this was an excellent opportunity for him to gain experience working in another industry and in a smaller organisation. So, he applied to be considered for redundancy. He was refused. The reason being that he was an expert in his field and the company couldn’t afford to lose him. This guy had a young family at the time and the decision maker must have believed that he would stay if he was refused the redundancy package. His knowledge had to be retained.

I can understand why he was refused the redundancy package. Knowing him personally I could see how he would be an asset to any organisation. He was massively disappointed though.  All around him, colleagues were receiving substantial packages to leave. People he had worked with for many years were delighted with themselves, paying off their mortgages and walking straight into alternative employment. This is not suggesting, of course, that these individuals were thought of less highly than my friend, but perhaps they didn’t have the knowledge base that he had that was perhaps essential to the organisation at that particular time.

The Inevitable

So what did my friend do? He left anyway. He walked away with his head full of knowledge and experience that he has since applied in his roles in other organisations. He felt that the job offer he had received was too good an opportunity to pass by, afraid that if he stayed with the same company for any longer that he would find it extremely difficult to get employment elsewhere in the future. This high performing, committed and loyal employee had to put himself first, of course.

We all know guys with the knowledge, those experts who have vast experience, having dealt with all types of situations and difficulties. Regardless of their field, they not only have the requisite qualifications and skills but that insight that only hard work and experience provides and that flair that makes them particularly suitable for the job they do. How can organisations protect that knowledge? How can they be assured that when difficulties arise in the future, that were dealt with efficiently in the past, they will be so dealt with in the future?

Of course Quality Management covers these types of situations with preventive and corrective actions, for instance, being pivotal to success in continuous improvement. But often times it is something someone says or remembers from the past, an idea that is resurfaced through conversation with a colleague or an email that is recalled with advice on solving a problem that is the key to solving a current difficulty, not necessarily a solution that was documented at the time.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge-based management systems that record those brain-waves, those little bits of advice, those ideas that come to someone in the middle of the night, provide a platform for retaining a least some of that knowledge that I am referring to here. Not only can such a system record key information about a product, for instance, but that detail is shareable with colleagues in far flung places, colleagues who have direct involvement with the same product line as our knowledge bearer but don’t even know him and certainly will not remember him in the future after he has left.

Knowledge management is essential for quality management which is a prerequisite in today’s world. But we can go further than mapping processes and procedures and keeping records, we can share insights and knowledge and keep that information, share it and retrieve it in the future. We will never have control over retaining those we regard as the ‘experts’ but we can retain a record of those insights they shared that earned them their title. MFG Vision allows you to retain this knowledge through yieldHUB, because the analysis system includes information entered by colleagues on debugging and fixing problems in semiconductor yield management, test engineering, product engineering, process engineering and setting up products in production. So the expert on design for test will have their knowledge in the system for future engineers and technicians in the wider corporation right as they analyse new related problems.

– Colette O’Malley