The last main topic discussed in the Industry Working Group of SGC2013 was related to knowledge management. This is going to be the last post of this series. New topics related with the nascent microsatellite industry, human commercial spaceflight or industry clusters among others will follow in future entries.
The new generation of space professionals is facing an issue quite related to the age gap present in space industry: technology transfer/knowledge management.
Many space senior professionals are near to retirement and young generations are moving between companies or doing international motilities.
How to transfer this know-how that is not written on the reports or data packages which are normally customer oriented, and how to transfer this know-how needed to face the everyday issues which is only acquired with the experience are some of the difficulties that have been observed.
This challenge, observed by many of the young space professionals has been analyzed with the different inputs and points of view of delegates from many different companies and regions around the world.
In the previous generations, space-related professionals used to stay in the same company for a long term, in many occasions the entirety of their professional career. That made it quite easy to share the know-how with the different teams, and to share the lessons learnt during the development of a project. The situation has changed drastically. While space projects last normally a few years, in many occasions the core team workers do not stay within the project during all its length.
The current employment trends, where individuals move frequently between companies and projects over the course of their careers, is creating knowledge management challenges.
The availability of new technologies and software tools make it easier to address this problem, but significant capability remains embedded in human capital.
Exploring new software tools for effective knowledge management, sharing, and storage.
An analysis of the available tools and how they can adapt to the needs of the different projects of business areas of the companies should be done. Space projects in general, are characterized by very long duration in comparison with other kind of industries. This makes it especially important to keep track of all the issues faced during its development, as well as the key factors taken into account to face them.
An effective knowledge management tool must provide information about know-how and lessons learnt from a project, which are not usually written down on the project data packages (customer oriented) and can be significantly useful to face a new upcoming project.
Creating user-friendly repositories that allow professionals to access experts and information that remain out of reach.
In many cases, some repositories are already implemented within the different companies. However, sometimes these are not liked by users. The need of a user-friendly tool, easily understandable and intuitive would easily simplify the task.
The Space sector average employee age is increasing and many professionals are close to retirement. A big percentage of the workers were born before the IT revolution and they are not so skilled in using these tools. User-friendly and intuitive repositories would be easier accepted by all space professionals.
This tool would also be useful to share the findings from R&D teams within companies and engineers working on regular projects. Lack of communication between teams can easily occur in big companies and in many occasions it suppresses the mutual benefit of shared knowledge for R&D teams. The mentioned tool/repository would allow space professionals to access not only already finished project’s information but also present research activities for the benefit of all activities pursued within the company/organization.
Foster a closer work environment between professionals at all levels of experience.
As it has already been mentioned before, there are many space professionals close to retirement. This generation, completely full of experience and space related knowledge is crucial to teach and assist the young space professionals. However, sometimes younger professionals face some difficulties to approach them. The company management should foster a work environment between professionals at all levels of experience. An example to make them work closer and foment team spirit would be to introduce inverse mentoring programs. Young space professionals grew up surrounded by high-tech technologies. This fact makes them really effective workers while using high-tech tools or learning how to use new ones. The new generation, that usually receives mentoring from the other ones, could assist them to use new high-tech tools.
Prioritizing the development and long-term training of young professionals in project management strategy.
The age gap has been identified as a major issue within the space industry. Qualified space professionals are usually in charge of the mentoring of new engineers and developers. However, an effective mentoring process can take a few years, which sometimes is not possible due to the work load or retirements processes.
Many times it a loss of information has been observed when long term employees are leaving the company due to retirement. To increase continuous information transfer the age gap should be avoided.
Project management strategy should focus on a more continuous hiring. To hire in smaller amounts of people but more continuously would definitely benefit industry, having a more effective know-how transfer.
The hiring strategy should be focused on the long term, and not only in the work-load needed for the present projects. This would allow having always a variety of different ages of professionals involved in the same project, and would result in an effective know-how transfer program.
Reporting: Sandra González Díaz. Subject Matter Experts: Paul Guthrie, Alanna Krolikowski. Moderator: Sandra González Díaz. Delegates: Emma Braegen, Cynthia Chen, Zorana Dancuo, Thomas Hobbs, Chung Sheng Huang, Jakob Huesing, Abhijet Kumar, Philipp Maier, Daichi Nakamura, Pavel Paces, Lluc Palerm, Daniel Sagath, Olga Stelmakh, Jan Svoboda, Nicole Tchorowski , Prater Tracie, Saqib Mehmood, Phillippa Blaber, Luís Ferreira, Felipe Arevalo, Zihua Zhu