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New Effort Underway to Capture Institutional Knowledge

Two male workers in a control room at a pulp mill are looking at a computer screen. The man in the back is standing and pointing something out on the screen to the other man, who is seated. Institutional knowledge is being shared to help each other do their jobs.

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According to Forbes magazine, each year 4 million baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, leave the workforce, taking with them valuable institutional knowledge that future generations might miss out on.

At Domtar, we’re working to capture and transfer that institutional knowledge before it’s gone.

Since April, Manufacturing Knowledge Development Senior Director Larry Warren has worked with a steering team of operational leaders, both at corporate offices and manufacturing sites, to create an intentional operations training structure.

The aim is to ensure consistent operator training, development and institutional knowledge transfer across our manufacturing network as older employees retire and new ones take their place.

“A lot of our organizational and institutional knowledge resides in the heads of our long-term employees,” he said. “We don’t want to let that valuable information retire with them without passing it on to younger generations.”

Instead, Warren and the steering team are taking a two-pronged approach to capture what we already know and thoroughly document new processes and procedures as we learn them. The goal is for employees to be able to refer to them later.

It’s happening with the help of a connected worker software for manufacturers. Using smartphones and tablets, workers can perform tasks, solve problems and collaborate right from the factory floor. The institutional knowledge transfer takes place as the work is done.

“It’s like Google and YouTube for work,” Warren says. “Teams will be able to document issues and repairs, directly in the software. They can even upload video. Once it’s captured in the library, anyone will be able search for it to solve similar issues in the future – just like someone at home might search instructions for a common household or auto repair.”

He says the software can even generate a QR code that can be placed on specific pieces of equipment or machines. “When you scan the code, you’ll see all the documents and tutorials related to that asset.”

Thanks to the software’s social network-type collaboration capabilities, anything uploaded by one site will be accessible to all others in the network.

Institutional Knowledge Transfers to New Employes at Washington Courthouse Converting

The software is starting to be implemented at several of our manufacturing and converting facilities. Although still in the early stages of integration at our Washington Courthouse, Ohio, converting facility, plant manager Jerimy Huff says he’s impressed by the easy accessibility to institutional knowledge.

“We can use it to train new employees,” he says. “We will be able to show them real-life examples of instructions, troubleshooting tips and safety procedures before they even set foot on the production floor.”

The site’s employees have been enthusiastic about adopting the software. One recent retiree – a 31-year maintenance manager – has even agreed to a consulting role to develop the tool for future users.

“We’re all very excited about the work the manufacturing knowledge development team is doing,” says Bill Edwards, senior vice president of manufacturing operations. “We’re thinking about the future of the organization and our people. We’re positioning ourselves to meet future workforce challenges and opportunities with a more engaged and versatile workforce.”