Benjamin Franklin summarised it succinctly back in the 18th century: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Just how accurate this observation of the US statesman was is increasingly evident in this day and age. Even though the buzzwords today are of digital transformation, big data and the like, knowledge is still the only resource that multiplies when utilised.
All companies worldwide have a degree of know-how that they require in order to succeed in their market. Knowledge such as this is often personal, anchored in the heads of employees. Many bosses have now also acknowledged this. Nevertheless, it is critical to success when such knowledge is “retired” or otherwise leaves the company.
In the coming years, the transfer of knowledge that should on no account be lost will increasingly represent an operational risk that many businesspeople are faced with due to the age structure of their workforce. Particularly in view of the fact that generation Y represents fresh energies with differing views of management and leadership.
At top management level especially, the exchange of experience and the associated transfer of knowledge is becoming increasingly important. The factors of knowledge and time management play a central role here in particular and are incredibly vital for the enduring success of a company.
The example of rff Rohr Flansch Fitting Handels GmbH (rff) – a trader and distributor in pipes and pipe fittings – illustrates how such a long-term transfer of knowledge can be managed successfully. The succession plan was initiated at an early stage. Hartmut Böttche (72), who founded the company in Stuhr, near Bremen, in 1976, took the decision to hire Michael Allexi in 2014.
The 45-year-old businessman joined the company in September 2014, initially responsible for sales management for international business. At the beginning of 2017 Allexi was appointed co-managing director, a milestone that does not yet mark the end of the transition process.
"I am delighted that I was able to hire Michael Allexi, an experienced manager with a wealth of knowledge in the international metals distribution sector. He will continue to lead the company into the future with his experience and ideas,” said Böttche, of the groundbreaking decision.
However, it is not just at corporate management level that positions needed to be refilled. The middle management at the 350-strong company has also been rejuvenated with foresight.
In the course of the last year, two department heads who had guided the fortunes of the company for decades were replaced with younger successors. Here too, rff applied a long-term and fluid transition, which passed off without a hitch.
The example of the Düsseldorf sales department illustrates the importance of long-term preparations. The former head of the branch began gradually preparing his successor, Dennis Müller, for his new task as long ago as 2010 and said: “In the past years we have complemented each other very well as a team”.
This meant that each was able to benefit from the abilities of the other, ensuring that the know-how - and therefore a significant part of the valuable work remained in the company.
The internal network is also becoming increasingly significant in the present time, when numerous cogs are required to mesh with one another across departments and hierarchies.
Many employees rapidly come up against their limits when it comes to complex tasks in particular. A well-functioning “network of colleagues” is therefore highly welcome where the know-how of the company as a whole is required.
Depending on the size of the company, this comprehensive knowledge also requires the support of IT. Only then can a supplier – such as rff – operate successfully in the market and utilise its entire range of services to optimal effect.
The demand for knowledge transfer between business partners is also a factor that is growing increasingly in importance. In the digital age of rapid access to comprehensive information via the internet, this medium has become one of the key channels for many companies. Here especially, business partners have come to expect useful tools and access to information that can deliver real added value in their daily work.
However, even in the age of access to know-how in the form of interactive applications, clouds and media libraries, the personal exchange of experiences is by no means old school.
There is still demand for seminars and workshops in which knowledge and experience are tailored to the requirements of participants. This form of knowledge transfer is particularly effective where cost pressures on the company are high and employees are required to handle an increasing number of tasks.
If there is a shortage of the necessary expertise, this can prove expensive for the employer in some circumstances.
Today, many companies have already realised that they benefit from working with competent partners in the field of knowledge management. “Shareconomy” is the keyword here.
Because especially where specific knowledge is of equal importance to both companies it is possible to close knowledge gaps, optimising co-operation in the process. rff offers this service to its customers in the form of numerous online tools, a media library and seminars on EN and ASME standards. Benjamin Franklin would no doubt have liked this.
The rff Rohr Flansch Fitting Handels GmbH is a qualified trading house at five locations in Germany for its customers in use when it comes to strong connections.
Each of the 350 employees understands it as an obligation not to find the first, but the best solution.More than 14,000 tons of pipes, flanges, elbows, welded fittings and pipe accessories in the two central warehouses Stuhr/Bremen and Beucha/Leipzig create ideal conditions for this.