Bringing forth tacit knowledge in the forest industry

Helena Kortelainen, Toni Ahonen, Minna Räikkönen, Pasi Valkokari & Venla Viertola

Knowledge intensity, performance requirements and collaborative networks are expanding, which require new ways to work together and new ways to share information. New technologies do not replace the expertise and competence of experienced employees. Now is the time to transfer the tacit knowledge to future expert generations.

From data to knowledge

Physical assets are traditionally regarded as the main source of value generation in industrial companies. As digitalization is shaping asset management and maintenance practices, the importance of knowledge and information as a source of value becomes evident. Industrial companies store massive amounts of data to their ICT- and automation systems. However, the data is not exploited as well as it is possible to. Along with the data saved into the ICT-systems, a significant part of organization’s knowledge is tacit. Tacit knowledge covers the understanding, expertise, and knowledge created by people through their experiences. In the forest industry, one of the biggest challenges is the upcoming wave of retirements.

Through digitalization, the main focus shifts from data collection to data exploitation. The typical question to ask is no longer “What information do we need?”, but “How can we use this information?” The costs of data collection, storing and refining must be evaluated with respect to the benefits that data exploitation provides. Data and knowledge help in understanding and analysing for example machine failures or bottlenecks of a production line. However, forecasting of future behaviour requires deeper understanding and further development of the current models. In this process, tacit knowledge plays a big part.

Knowledge and support form data to decision making.

Digitalization calls for collaboration

Information exchange between organizations has a significant impact on the ability to provide benefit to the customers. It also has an impact on the effectiveness of productivity in organizations. New technologies and policies are needed to increase the information exchange over organizational boundaries. This supports maintenance efficiency, issue recognizing, and the recognition of areas to be developed. Collaboration of IT- and forest industries provides a significant business advantage to both parties. However, technology is not the only solution to increase productivity. Sustainable deployment of the technology solutions require changes in policies and operational processes, and in the prevailing industrial ecosystems.

Finnish forest industry is globally known for high technology, expertise and skilled workforce. In order to take the leap in competitiveness and productivity, the industry has to explore new digital ways to develop products, services, policies, business models and networks. In SEED, we develop methods and tools for business-driven asset management and productivity improvement via digital solutions. It is also high time to develop tacit knowledge collection and transfer.

More information, see “Tacit knowledge in forest industry” (in Finnish).