In most service organizations, knowledge acquisition starts at product launch or shortly beforehand, gradually increasing the "amount" and quality of knowledge and the ensuing ability to support customers and maintain the product. Because most of the learning is informal and happens through experience, the rate of learning depends on the organization's ability and efficiency in capturing and sharing experience and best practices.
As the product enters volume deployment and the service organization faces maintenance challenges, it quickly gains experience and the cumulative knowledge level increases. But at some point, the organization reaches a level of knowledge that appears to be sufficient to handle service and repair and the need for new knowledge is diminished; the organization effectively ceases to learn. Furthermore, often the fact that the knowledge level has reached a perceived optimum and the product is no longer new and has become mainstream endorses workforce changes, causing loss of knowledge. Aging baby boomers accelerate normal attrition.
In early manufacturing and deployment, it is common for failures to occur more frequently as design flaws, early manufacturing process problems, and other product infancy issues manifest. This typically occurs when organizational support is still in its early learning stages and service capabilities are at their lowest point. As product improvements are implemented and the product approaches maturity, the failure rates decrease. This occurs in parallel to the learning organization approaching its peak knowledge level. Then, as failure rates decrease and reach a plateau, the incoming rate of new knowledge slows considerably, slowing the learning rate.
Based on this, its stands to reason that the largest knowledge gaps exist at the early (learning) and the late (knowledge attrition) phases of the product life cycle - the phases in which the consequences of lacking knowledge and poor support capabilities are the most profound.
Unfortunately, we find that many service organizations are poor learning organizations and are deficient, particularly in these phases.
Product and service organizations must recognize the existence of weak areas in knowledge acquisition and retention - the knowledge gaps - and must implement process changes and complementing technologies to close these gaps. They need to take specific actions to facilitate a service knowledge management strategy that focuses on these areas, creating an organization that learns faster and retains longer. Proactive measures to close these knowledge gaps should take the form of a number of activities, including design for service, and implementation of product life-cycle management (PLM) and service life-cycle management (SLM) to bring learning and product development in sync in all phases of the product life cycle.
For more detailed information on this topic, subscribers can read the full report on Closing the Service Knowledge Gap. We look forward to your comments on the topic.