McCarthy, Gerard John
Knowledge management within a multinational knowledge led company.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The semiconductor industry relies on knowledge sharing and collaboration between its employees and amongst subsidiary companies to remain competitive in an ever changing, market driven environment. Practise has changed from workers supplying labour to workers supplying knowledge. Technology improvements and investment in automation have provided companies the platform to generate, codify, harness and exploit knowledge as a means of improving organisational performance.
This research explores knowledge dynamics in the organisation and specifically looks at knowledge sharing within a subsidiary and among subsidiaries in a multinational corporation. The corporation in question operates its manufacturing facilities as competing business units. The purpose of the research was to establish if this method of organising business units provides the overall corporation with a competitive advantage, or if competing business units inhibits performance preventing or restricting the potential for a competitive advantage for the corporation.
To determine how knowledge is shared within the organisation a series of semi-structured interviews were conducted. Senior managers and professional staff across a number of disciplines were interviewed. Knowledge sharing within functional area departments, collaboration between functional area departments, knowledge systems and compliance to knowledge systems were used as determinants to establish the extent of the knowledge dynamic in the subsidiary. The relationship between knowledge sharing and how it impacted the “bottom line” performance of the subsidiary was also considered in an attempt to quantify the impact knowledge sharing has on performance.
To determine how knowledge is shared between subsidiaries, two case studies were conducted. The first case study involved a benchmarking visit to allow two of the corporation’s subsidiaries to compare best practice cost systems with multi-disciplines involved. The second case study involved a cross functional team of technical staff to define a manufacturing facility technical yield roadmap.
Significant cost, productivity and yield improvement at the site was attributed to the success of collaborative units established at site. Establishing collaborative units was a precursor to setting up a network within the site to promote knowledge sharing in the organisation. The site was cognisant of the impact of effective knowledge sharing and receptive to sharing knowledge on an informal or formal basis. The site put great stock in codified knowledge and invested heavily in automating knowledge based systems.
Many barriers to knowledge sharing were identified including compliance to codified procedures, departmental conflicts, viewing knowledge sharing as a burden, variation across automated systems, conflicts caused by the internet as a knowledge source and logistics due to geographical dispersion. Knowledge-led teams overcame many of these barriers. Success bred success to the extent knowledge sharing has become a business process in the organisation.
Knowledge sharing is a two way process. It can be a vehicle for trust, respect and improvement. This research has shown knowledge sharing even within competing business units can produce a competitive advantage. An organisation is an accumulation of knowledge. A knowledge-led collaborative approach provides many benefits: it will advance the company, engage staff at all levels and favourably impact the “bottom line”. Knowledge management differentiated the local site from other corporate subsidiaries with the local site demonstrating “best in class” results on its key performance indicators. Encouragingly, there is ample opportunity to improve performance further once knowledge management is fully embedded as a business process across the organisation.
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