Knowledge discovery by factory floor workers and its transfer to management
Factory floor workers can create and add value to their firm from new knowledge they may discover whilst performing their daily tasks. The subsequent transfer of that knowledge to middle managers can improve process efficiencies, if they can utilise it. Many researchers and practitioners perceive value in understanding and implementing a range of knowledge transfer strategies and initiatives, yet there is little empirical evidence on ground level knowledge discovery and bottom-up knowledge transfers in a manufacturing environment. We conducted in-depth interviews with factory floor workers, leading hands and production managers from the Australian metal fabrication industry and analysed the data using a multiple case study method. The findings firstly suggest that the transfer of knowledge between factory floor workers and middle management flows through one main channel, and that knowledge is generally shared within expert communities based on members' previous experience within the trade. Secondly, middle managers have a support function as facilitators of knowledge flow and exchanges rather than being knowledge creators. Thirdly, factory workers only communicate with management through no-fuss, personal, face-to-face interaction. The results indicate that firms must implement policies and initiatives to develop or foster the ease and frequency of those interactions to gain maximum value from knowledge transfers between the two communities.
Landscapes and Mindscapes in a Globalized World