Finding a solution to the tacit knowledge problem in production

[German title: Eine Lösung für das Problem des impliziten Wissens in der Produktion finden]

M G Nicholls and B J Cargill
Determining best practice production in an aluminium smelter involving sub-processes based substantially on tacit knowledge: an application of Communities of Practice
Journal of the Operational Research Society (2008) 59, 13–24.

Abstract: This paper considers the difficulties associated with a production process that contains a sub-process that is not fully understood and for which data for many parameters are only able to be approximately obtained. The aluminium smelting industry epitomizes such a situation. Here, the critical sub-process that exemplifies these difficulties is the actual heart of the smelter, the electrolytic processing of alumina. This sub-process of aluminium production is at best ‘fuzzy’ and relies on the smelter operators to use their experience and tacit knowledge on a day-to-day basis, that is, the sub-process involves ‘alchemy’. In this paper, this is referred to as the tacit knowledge problem. The impact of such sub-processes on production is significant and the development of a methodology that will lead to a reduced reliance on uncertain alchemy associated with them, highly beneficial. The role of Communities of Practice in finding a solution to the tacit knowledge problem is discussed together with its integration into a mixed-mode model for the determination of best practice production for the smelter.

Keywords: Communities of Practice, mixed-mode modelling, knowledge management

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Copyright © 2007 Palgrave Macmillan Ltd.

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