The Knowledge Dimension of Manufacturing Transfers: A method for identifying hidden knowledge

Erik Skov Madsen, Jens Ove Riis, Brian Vejrum Sørensen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: In the context of transferring manufacturing knowledge to new locations, whether this is to parties inside or outside the legal boundary of a firm, a key problem remains, that it is often difficult to explain what operators really know, or why what they do really works. Still most attention is given to planning the physical move and to the explicit knowledge associated with normal operations. We argue that manufacturing processes rarely contain the necessary robustness that can be replicated in a new context. The transfer, therefore, should encompass a wider range of task situations and the associated sets of knowledge. The purpose of this paper is to develop a method that may help to identify and capture the knowledge tied to non-normal task situations as a basis for supporting an accelerated learning at the new site.

Methodology - Three case studies based on observations over 1½ years and interviews (n=59) with operators, management and technical support staff on both sides of the relationship, illustrate and support the developed model. A fourth case study is used to test the method.

Findings - The case studies show that the classification of task situations can be used in the process of identifying hidden knowledge.

Implications - The paper operationalizes knowledge tied to different task situations at the shop floor and shows that the non-normal task situations deserve increased attention in the literature as well as in practical work of preparing for a transfer of manufacturing processes. The proposed method may help companies identify hidden knowledge and prepare a comprehensive training program.

Originality - The authors present a framework for assessing knowledge of various task situations and a method for transfer of non-normal task situations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStrategic Outsourcing: An International Journal
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)198-209
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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