Running a manufacturing business is a delicate balancing act of many different factors and stakeholders. You have to ensure you have enough materials to make your product, that you can deliver it on time, and that your invoices don’t remain outstanding.
Those are all obvious hurdles that need to be cleared when looking to optimize your business.
But what about those hidden issues we don’t think about?
There are several other lesser known problems in any manufacturing plant that might be hampering your efforts to improve your productivity. One of the most potentially damaging ones is tribal knowledge.
This silent efficiency killer can severely impact your production process, limit your output and make training new employees a time consuming process.
So what is tribal knowledge and how is it harming my business?
Tribal knowledge is the unique experience, know-how or piece of information that is not widely known by all employees within a company. In other words, it is the knowledge “passed down” through word of mouth from employee to employee that often assists with their work duties.
In many cases, tribal knowledge is actually vital to the continued successful day-to-day operations of a manufacturing plant.
It could be the exact timings of a particular process, or the unique quirks of a particular machine that aren’t in any manual. It could even be in the personal dealings between a salesperson and an important client, like any established deal terms or special discounts.
Tribal knowledge is essentially any information related to the running of your manufacturing plant that is locked inside of an employee’s head, as opposed to written down or logged on a computer.
Whilst developing your own experiences and knowledge around a job you do every day is inevitable, it can actually harm the business if this knowledge is not shared with everyone.
Tribal knowledge can negatively impact your manufacturing business in a variety of ways. This can include, but are not limited to:
Due to the private nature of tribal knowledge, your plant can be left in the lurch if the employee who has that knowledge is sick or leaves the company.
If there is only one person that knows exactly how a process works, or exactly what has been said to a client, and then that person is no longer available to the company, this can have serious impacts on your productivity.
If the employee is just sick, your productivity will only be impacted for a couple of days, but should that employee no longer be under your employ, you can be stuck having to train a new employee entirely from scratch without the benefits of that tribal knowledge.
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