Collaboration – Part 1: How companies use their knowledge more efficiently

Published: 2022-06-17 Updated: 2022-08-30
Subject: Manufacturers Operators

Knowledge is power - but what happens when, due to demographic change and a shortage of skilled workers, less and less knowledge is kept within the company? The challenge is to find a new way of dealing with information. To do this, collaboration must change in all areas of the company. The keyword is (knowledge) collaboration.

What is collaboration?

Since the year 2020, at the latest, when a large proportion of employees had to shift the focus of their work from the office to the home office, the topic of collaboration has taken on a whole new significance. Two important trends have emerged in recent years, particularly in the context of the Corona pandemic:

  • Agility: Collaboration today is much more agile and dynamic than it used to be and has long since ceased to take place only within the boundaries of departments. Instead of silo thinking, team spirit is the order of the day today - after all, all employees have the same goal: they want to contribute to the success of their company.
  • Networking: Digital tools, such as software for video conferencing, cloud storage for file filing or online documents for joint editing in real time, now have a permanent place in everyday working life. They simplify collaboration within the team and beyond, automate recurring tasks and increase efficiency in everyday work.

What role does collaboration play in aftersales?

Both trends are also leaving their mark on aftersales and the service teams of machine and plant manufacturers. Driven by demographic change and digitization, a change in the tasks of service technicians has been emerging for some years now: They are moving from being problem solvers to process optimizers. 

The reason: industrial plants are becoming increasingly complex and networked. Accordingly, service technicians must adopt new perspectives and view machines holistically - including upstream and downstream processes. For this to succeed, access to expertise, interdisciplinary exchange with colleagues and collaboration with other departments are just as important for them as the use of networked tools.

6 job profiles that exemplify the transformation in service:

The future of the service technician

How are collaboration and knowledge transfer related?

Preserving expertise is one of the most important tasks for all companies that want to protect themselves from the consequences of demographic change. To do this, the knowledge available in the company must be identified and bundled so that it can be used by all departments. Since the focus here is on the exchange between knowledge carriers and those employees who need access to knowledge, this is also referred to as "knowledge collaboration". 

The networked and collaborative management of knowledge across all departments and age groups creates a learning and resilient organization. This is able to

  • optimize their processes in a targeted manner,
  • find solutions to new challenges more quickly,
  • better understand target groups and trends 
  • improve internal communication,
  • develop new products and services more efficiently, 
  • provide service employees with the necessary knowledge in a targeted manner, and 
  • increase customer satisfaction more easily.

When knowledge becomes too powerful: Lack of overview hurts productivity

For all its advantages, knowledge collaboration also harbors a danger: Without strategy and planning, the resulting volume of information and knowledge quickly leads to "knowledge overload". If it is not clear to service technicians in which system the information relevant to them can be found, their productivity and willingness to share knowledge in turn suffer. 

According to a recent study of service professionals, 85 percent of technicians waste time searching for information day after day. As a result, they prefer to quickly exchange information with their colleagues via e-mail and the knowledge disappears forever in their inbox - without other service technicians with similar challenges being able to benefit from it.

Freeing knowledge from the silo

The problem with e-mail: Knowledge lies unorganized in the inbox or branched email folders, the search function is only of limited help, and when an employee leaves, the knowledge accumulated in the inbox is also lost. 

This is why knowledge collaboration is so important. If knowledge, for example in the form of service information and data on spare parts, is collected and structured centrally, it can be used to generate real added value. Software tools help manufacturers to build up a helpful knowledge database that not only helps service technicians in their daily work, but also makes it easier for new colleagues to get started.

How knowledge collaboration works in companies

Service and aftersales employees need comprehensive knowledge to do their jobs. For example, they need service instructions, flow charts, spare parts information or circuit diagrams. Their work becomes even more efficient if they also have access to animations or images. This is a particularly helpful addition for junior staff. 

In a modern service information system, all this knowledge can be integrated, intelligently linked and shared. Thanks to sophisticated search functions, service technicians save a lot of time when searching for information - which ultimately also increases customer satisfaction. After all, work on site or via remote services is completed more quickly if the necessary information is available immediately and in a central location.

With a digital and networked system for service information, companies also ensure that no outdated data appears in the collaboration between their employees. Instead, they have a central database that brings all employees up to the same level of knowledge.

Modern software tools thus form the basis for collaboration and targeted knowledge transfer. They are indispensable for companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector if they want to effectively counter the consequences of demographic change. 

Read the next part of this series to find out how collaboration and knowledge transfer can benefit your business.