Knowledge and Information Management (KIM) Grand Challenge Project
Customers' needs are changing - and organisations across all sectors are increasingly being asked not only to provide products in the first instance, but also to support them throughout their service life. This requires a new approach to business, operational and information system models which will all need to have sufficient rigour to support product life cycles which could extend to 30 years or more during which the related information and knowledge will be stored, accessed, used and re-created many times over in many different situations and contexts.
The KIM Project, a 3 year, £5M programme funded primarily by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), brings together a team of some 70 academics and researchers from 11 universities to look at the knowledge management challenges associated with this move towards through-life product support. The team is already working with a number of organisations and companies from an ever widening range of business sectors, including aerospace, construction, defence and healthcare, with a view to producing data solutions to address these global issues. We welcome all industrial parties, be they OEM, supplier, service provider or customer oriented, with an interest in this subject area and who see benefit in interacting with the team in the exploration and development of best practice solutions.
As with most business change initiatives, the solution does not start and finish with organising and managing data. Through-life product support requires suppliers not only to start to build retrievable engineering product knowledge systems, which can be continuously updated in light of in-service experience, but also to consider supply chain support, procurement and human resource policies to support 30 year plus lifecycles. A particularly interesting aspect of the KIM Project is that it brings together expertise from the construction and engineering sectors and from a technical and human perspective.
The Project has been divided into three work packages to cover different aspects of the research issues.
How should the output of design processes be recorded to enable the information created and the process followed to be accessed and the information and rationale behind design decisions revisited reliably over the lifetime of the product and beyond?
How is it possible to learn through life? For example, so that the information used in design on the basis of in-service experience may be updated and corrected. How is it possible to understand better the value of the information that has been retained? This work is particularly concerned with the active 'curation' of the through-life knowledge and information of a product or service.
What are the implications for companies moving into the product-service supply chain in terms of organisation and governance? For example, what incentivises suppliers to move towards through-life service contracts? What are the human resource implications of this move to product-service contracts; and what decision support mechanisms are required?
The team of academics and researchers contains specialists in product modelling, document management, information archiving, information modelling and engineering standards, in learning organisations and HR policy. Collaborations with both customer and supplier organisations would be welcomed in the following areas:
- In the identification of issues being faced by companies in the move to product-service contracts, and how these might be expressed in scenarios and examples that the research team can use in its work;
- In the provision of access to engineers and to example material through the course of the research programme;
- In testing of the ideas and tools emerging from the research, and feedback to the research team on their work.