KM Process om Advanced, Technologically Complex Product Firm

For 10th International Conference on Knowledge Management (ICKM)
A case study of PT. Dirgantara Indonesia

PT-Dirgantara-IndonesiaExisting studies on Knowledge Management (KM) processes mainly use the cases of mass products and focus the analyses at intra-firm coordination. The findings of the studies therefore fail to address the challenges faced by firms developing complex products, which typically involve inter-firm collaborations. The aim of this study is to explore how KM process is organised in a advanced, technologically complex product firm. Empirically, this study uses the case of the development and manufacture of CN 235, an aeroplane produced by the Indonesian Aerospace. The findings of this study is expected to uncover how KM processes occur within an innovating firm, at the levels of both sub units and firm. In particular, this study will pay close attention on how KM process takes place related to collaborations between the firm and their external partners.
Key words: KM process, coordination mechanism, product development, advanced technologically complex product, knowledge areas, aeroplane.
Based on Penrose (1959), Darroch (2005) argues that firms? performance does not only depend on the ownership of their knowledge, but also how the firms manage their knowledge. Furthermore, she argues that knowledge management (KM) can be seen as coordination mechanisms. Chen and Mohamed (2007) show in their study that KM process can facilitate organisations in the advancement of their knowledge and increase the organisations? capability. The KM literature typically describes KM process as a process on how knowledge is created, acquired, disseminated and utilised in an organisation (Nonaka dan Takeuchi, 1995; Sveiby, 2001; Nonaka dan Peltokorpi, 2006; APO, 2009). With regard to the sources of knowledge, existing studies on KM show that knowledge can be created internally (Nonaka dan Takeuchi, 1995) and acquired from external partners (Sveiby, 2001; Nonaka dan Peltokorpi, 2006). Existing studies have theoretically addressed the topic on the links between KM process and both internal and external knowldge sources (Sveiby, 2001). However, empirical studies on the topic are few.
Previous studies on KM mainly use cases that involve mass products (Chen et al., 2007) and/or non advanced technologically firms. In particular, case studies involving Knowledge Management and complex products are relatively few (Chen et al., 2007). Furthermore, existing studies typically do not link KM process to knowledge areas embedded in a complex product being developed. Only do few exceptions exist. For example, Nonaka dan Peltokorpi (2006) use theories of KM to analyse the development of Toyota?s Prius. In the study, they particularly describe how coordinations occur among the internal units involved in the development. However, how the coordinations (interactions) between the internal units and external partners take places is only obtained little attention. Because development of a complex product (Sushandoyo and Magnusson, 2012) typically involves external partners, it is therefore argued that studies on KM and development of such a product need to address both intra- and inter-firm interactions (Chen et al., 2007; Rangachari, 2009), and multi-levels of analysis (Pitt and MacVaugh, 2008; Chen et al., 2007).
Analysing complex systems, Rangachari (2009) has underlined that organisations need to coordinate knowledge exchange across subgroups, create linkages between subgroups and organisations, and connect the subgroups with external environment. However, this previous study only provides a theoretical framework based on literature reviews, without validating it through any emprical evidence (see also, Chen et al., 2007). Chen et al. (2007) state that ?KM processes based on inter-organizational collaboration has recieved little attention in prior studies, especially in complex product system (CoPS) conditions?(p. 142). Furthermore, they find that ?most KM wisdom is from mass product innovation and at intra-organization level?(p.142). Therefore, they argue that findings of pervious studies have failed to ?address the challenges faced by CoPS integrators (firms) when attempting to deal complex knowledge under an inter-organizational environment?(p.142). Studies based on empirical evidence is therefore needed (Chen et al., 2007) (see also Sveiby, 2001; Rangachari, 2009). Using a case study of the development of advanced technologically complex product, this current study aims to answer the following two research questions:
1. How do KM processes occur related to intra-firm collaborations at the levels of both sub units and firm?
2. How do KM processes take place related to collaborations between a complex product firm and their partners?
Reserach method
By considering the previous studies mentioned above, this study will use case study as a reserach method to observe and analyse KM process (knowledge creation, acquisition, dessimination, and utilisation) in relation to the development of an advanced, technologically complex product. Empirically, this study will use the case of CN-235 development, an aeroplane produced by PT. Dirgantara Indonesia.
Case study research can faciliate investigation of a phenomenon in its context (Yin, 2009). Single case study can be used as a means to extend theory by filling gaps in the existing KM literature. This can be conducted through theoretical sampling (not a random sampling as traditionally being used in the quantitative research methodology) (Eisenhardt (1989). The case involving the development of CN-235 aeroplane is selected because the product can be considered as an advanced technologically complex product and it is successful product in the market. In the Toyota?s Prius case, the development is mainly conducted internally by Toyota (Nonaka dan Peltokorpi, 2006). In contrast, the PT. DI case will expose how KM process in the product development is mainly conducted by collaborations with external partners through several mechanisms such as licenses and partherships occurs.
An aeroplane such as CN-235 can be considered as a complex product because it consists of a large number of components (e.g., propellar, gear, door) that are integrated to be a sub-system (e.g., engine, wings, fuselage). The sub-systems are then integrated as a system (an aeroplane) (Ibrahim and Triatna, 2013). In other words, the development of an aeroplane involves two areas: (1) the development of components/ subsystems and; (2) that of the ways the components/subsystems are integrated (cf., Henderson and Clark, 1990). By considering the charactersitics of aeroplane and the two areas of development, this study will observe on what knowledge fields are required to develop CN-235 and how PT. DI manage their knowledge. In a more detail, this study will observe how KM process occurs in each sub unit within PT. DI. Furthermore, the study will also analyse coordination mechanisms used by PT. DI to integrate the works conducted by the sub units. In other words, the units of analysis of this study is related to coordination mechanisms occur at the levels of both sub units and firm. This study will analyse on how KM process takes place related to interactions between PT. DI and their external partners in the development of CN-235.
The data collections will be conducted through interviews with key persons in PT. Dirgantara Indonesia such as the director of technology and development, the managers of the divisions/ subdivisions, the supervisors of the units within the firm as well as key engineers in each division/subunit. This study will also interview the unit(s) that is in charge for collaborations with external partners. Data will be also obtained from the firm? archieves and official website, and the MBA master theses under our supervisions. Furthermore, online magazines will also be used.
Pattern-matching technique (Yin, 2009) will be used to analyse the collected data. In practical, this will be performed through analysing the collected data using the provided theoretical framework.
Expected findings, discussion and conclusions
The findings of this study is expected to uncover how internal coordination mechanisms within a firm occur at the levels of both sub units and firm. In particular, this study will pay close attention on how KM process takes place related to interactions between an innovating firm and their external partners in the development of an advanced, technologically complex product.
We are grateful for the financial support provided by Indonesia Ministry of Education and Culture through the National Strategic Research Grant, also information and data provided by PT. Dirgantara Indonesia.
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Dedy Sushandoyo,
Didin Kristinawati,
Jann Hidajat Tjakraatmadja,
Lenny Martini,
Nurfaisa Hidayanti,