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3 Steps to Capturing Tribal Knowledge in Manufacturing

Posted on 21st June, 2018 by Leo Lambert

An intangible quality only attained through accumulated experiences, tribal knowledge must be documented and preserved. In the electronics manufacturing space, the most experienced employees have likely gained knowledge and adapted processes that are absent from training manuals and standard procedures. This insight is often taken for granted as managers and executives quantify completed tasks, overlooking the procedural, efficiency-improving, shortcuts and expertise. If left undocumented, this tribal knowledge disappears when the employee leaves.

Aging Workforce

Now more than ever, tribal knowledge has become invaluable to plant managers and executives alike. In the manufacturing sector, a rapidly aging workforce illustrates the importance of knowledge management and why information must be transferred to younger generations. With an estimated 25% of the 11 million manufacturing workers being 55 or older, it’s becoming increasingly important for decision makers to absorb and document as much tribal knowledge as possible before this generation retires to equip the younger workforce.

Here are three ways to capture and transfer the tribal knowledge of your most seasoned employees to benefit your operations:

1.) Identify Knowledge Leaders: The first step in retaining any existing knowledge is to identify the knowledge leaders themselves: employees that have the most experience in respective areas or simply in general are a great place to start.

2.) Organize the Information: Organization is key. Years of experience translates into years of knowledge, and because it’s never been documented, it’s important to determine which insights are beneficial to operations on a grand scale, and which tips pertain to a specific part of the process. This will be important in streamlining the next step.

3.) Document and Design: After identifying the experienced knowledge leaders and organizing the vast amount of insights they might have, documenting their tribal knowledge will ensure it stays within the company after they retire. After documenting, you’ll want to practice proper knowledge management by incorporating the knowledge into new hire training programs to prevent organizational brain drain. Designing mentorship programs around experienced leaders will offer a more direct knowledge transfer process, and allow older employees to take on a new role within the organization.

Just as harnessing your employees’ tribal knowledge can benefit your operations, so too can utilizing our years of expertise. Contact the industry professionals at EPTAC to learn more about our consulting services. We’ll work with you to identify process deficiencies, provide solutions, and help implement our recommendations to ensure your organization operates at peak efficiency.


For over 30 years, EPTAC has been a leading provider of solder training and IPC certification. We provide professionals with the tools and training they need to advance their careers and improve their businesses. With 14 locations across North America, our solutions and instructional staff provide an easy access to knowledge that will enhance your business model and help you meet and exceed industry demands. For more information call 800.643.7822 or contact us.

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