Keywords: organisational capability, continuous improvement, knowledge capture, operational effectiveness, decision making, engineering process, new product introduction, wealth creation
The role of engineering in knowledge management - the key to wealth creation
The term "knowledge economy" is now widely used to signify the growth of a new industrial era, encompassing the capture and exploitation of global knowledge, to create new, or improved, processes or products which, in turn, give rise to wealth creation. But how does knowledge arise and how is it part of the enabling process that leads to new processes or products? How are raw data turned into wealth creation? And what is the role of engineering in this process? This paper describes a Capability Framework, which shows how the collective operational competence of any organisation is driven by the procedures regulating its activity, the information availability and the human skills applied. It further shows how the learning and experience that support the decision making are fundamental in determining the quality and effectiveness of the process through which the activity is directed. The Capability Framework also shows the linkages with creativity and innovation which, applied through the transformation mechanism provided by engineering, can harness collective capability and with the Business Strategy establish wealth creation through technology introduction and new product development. This approach identifies the basis for the controlled management of business performance improvement by channelling effort through the three fundamental segments (staff development, information systems and operating processes) to provide a platform for the implementation of continuous improvement initiatives in a self-sustaining environment. Additionally, it highlights the importance of knowledge capture as a means of improving the decision making process, particularly in recognition of the increasing proliferation of basic technology that is the unavoidable by-product of specialisation. The importance of culture change, as the essential catalyst for sustainable improvement, is presented in the context of repositioning the field of engineering to reignite creativity and innovation as the drivers of wealth creation.