The Knowledge Management Opportunity In Manufacturing: INO’s Success Story

Institut National D’Optique realized that it needed a better way to share critical knowledge and information across teams, to ensure an accurate, consolidated view of all information, in near real-time, and get new employees up to speed quickly in order to be efficient.

At many manufacturing organizations today, knowledge is the main currency. This applies to my employer Institut National D’Optique (INO), a technological research and development firm specializing in optics and photonic solutions. Home to the largest concentration of skills in our field, we serve a global client base of all size companies and 80 percent of our workforce is highly educated, highly skilled scientists, technicians and engineers.

INO’s business centers on expertise, knowledge and information and its competitive edge is found within the company’s people and intellectual property (IP). It’s what drives innovation within INO and sets us apart from the competition. Our work is all about information contained in people, projects, processes and systems, and it continues to grow exponentially every day. In fact, we have three times the amount of PCs compared to the number of employees. After 25 years of doing business, it became impossible to share information effectively.

Our knowledge had previously been shared via a people network. INO employees would slowly learn “who knew what” during their tenure.  A long-term employee would inherently “know” more than a new employee because he had learned whom to go to for information. New employees were at a disadvantage; ramp-up times were extended and their ability to contribute to the business was hindered. The inability to share important knowledge across teams and the business was hampering INO’s ability to more quickly innovate, serve customers and ultimately sell more.

Beyond our informal way of sharing information, we also realized the embedded search functionality within our applications was cumbersome and didn’t present an accurate view of all the knowledge of our employees. Looking back, our employees were only getting a fraction of the view of all knowledge, and were lacking the insight needed to be more effective at their jobs. Some employees reported that search results only reflected less than 10 percent of the more than 2 million documents that contain relevant knowledge.

Ultimately, we came to the realization that INO needed a better way to share critical knowledge and information across teams, to ensure an accurate, consolidated view of all information, in near real-time, and get new employees up to speed quickly.

Selection and Implementation Process

To move forward on this objective, INO formed a steering committee comprised of a representative from each department that would help us in the selection process. The committee outlined its stringent requirements, with a specialized focus on security and permissioning.

Since we deal with vast amounts of private information under NDA with our customers, security was a big concern for us in the selection process. We were looking to partner with a company that was able to respect the security permissions we had set up in our systems, and one that also had the flexibility to set up permissions to information based on project teams and roles within INO.

The ability to easily configure and refine the solution by role and ensure personalized context was also critical to our decision. Because our employees work on different projects for various customers, what is contextually relevant to one project team isn’t necessarily relevant to another. We decided to evaluate Coveo’s search and relevance solution alongside Microsoft and Google’s enterprise search offerings.

Once our committee saw how knowledge and information was consolidated and correlated and presented in a unified way through Coveo’s Insight Consoles, while respecting security and permissions, it was easy to see the immediate impact and value that this technology would deliver to our bottom line. Our selection committee saw the return we’d be able to achieve with Coveo, calculating the ROI to be seen in less than a year. This, along with solution’s ease of use and extensive security features, were key factors behind our decision to implement their solution.

Perhaps equally important was the ability to refine facets and present contextually relevant knowledge and information by employee role. This greatly improves the efficiency of our employees. After selecting Coveo, the INO team quickly expanded our use from the original proof of concept, to include what we considered to be our most important information and knowledge repositories and where INO IP, project documents, client information and research reside. This was rolled out to all INO employees.

The company then expanded our use of Coveo and indexed additional systems, including our ticketing system, CRM system, ERP system, intranet and more. Now, 99 percent of INO’s relevant corporate information is indexed by Coveo, giving scientists, engineers and all employees immediate, comprehensive, single-screen access to the most up-to-date information across all enterprise systems.

Better Knowledge Access Drives Results

Using search and relevance technology, we now have greater insight into all our corporate knowledge and information, as well as our customers and their projects. Coveo implementation provides us access to 99 percent of the "searchable" content.  This unified view of information helps us better collaborate on projects, quickly understand who our subject-matter experts are, get our new employees up to speed and become productive faster and avoid the recreation of work that’s already been done.

Additionally, INO CFO Martin Larrivée reported productivity gains for the company, noting that “Since our Coveo implementation, we have significantly increased our efficiency and productivity numbers, with our average user saving two hours each week searching for information, or recreating work that already exists, which translates into a five percent improvement in productivity per employee.” Our employees are very highly skilled people — engineers and scientists with masters and doctorates. Therefore, a five percent productivity gain translates to big dollars for us.

INO has also integrated search & relevance technology into the company’s new hire training process. New hires get immediately trained for 30 minutes on Coveo to help them get up to speed faster, understand subject matter experts within the organization, and quickly ramp up on customer projects and requirements. In turn, our new hires are able to start contributing to the success of client projects right away.

While we have already made major strides in knowledge management at INO, we have even more plans to continue this improvement. The company will soon be implementing the Coveo Text Analytics module, which will bring additional significant value. We’ve learned that efficient search is the number one need for every employee in knowledge management and day-to-day work. As our personnel have experienced, an inquiry may bring up a huge list of possible relevant sources. The facets and filtering capabilities of Coveo help us to refine our searches. The result: an improved ability to innovate and serve customers. While this certainly translates to an impressive ROI for the company, we also see this as an ROK — a return on knowledge that we hadn’t known existed.  

Pierre Bergeron is a process and compliance manager at Institut National D’Optique (INO). 

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