Operations-based knowledge management (OBKM) in aircraft engineering

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Raising oil prices, intense rivalry completion, safety concerns and downward pressure on prices are some of the serious challenges facing the civil aviation industry. However, in the past decade the civil aviation industry experienced a new kind of challenge; the escalading shortage of sophisticated technical capabilities especially in the aircraft engineering fields. This was fuelled by the high job rotation, job reduction and the raising rate of retirement of the aging engineering workforce. This exposed the raising knowledge gap between the aircraft engineering experts and new hires. The need for an effective knowledge management (KM) system was evident. Hence, the main objective of this study is to develop and validate a framework for better management of knowledge in the aircraft engineering field. The Saudi Arabian aviation industry was the domain for this research. A review of KM literature was conducted. Many of the KM initiatives seems to relate to focusing on the information technology (IT) based solutions rather than dealing with the organizations’ operational issues that have diverse effect on KM implementation. Thus, Operations-Based Knowledge Management (OBKM) framework guidelines were proposed. Also, an empirical investigation of the KM practices in the Saudi Arabian aviation industry was performed. Convergent interviews were carried out. It was discovered that level KM awareness among aircraft engineers is low. Moreover, current KM practices are modest and, where they exist, are merely incidental to everyday operations, and not due to any deliberate focus on KM. Further development for the OBKM framework guidelines was needed. KM critical success factors (CSF) literature coding and analysis were performed to identify the theoretical OBKM framework. To incorporate the industry experts’ feedback into the framework a KM workshop was performed in the Saudi Arabian aviation industry. It was attended by 63 aircraft engineering experts. It consisted of KM seminar followed by KM focus groups. The workshop helped raising the KM awareness and, at the same time, gathering the CSF for an effective KM system from their point of view. Developing the practice-based OBKM framework was done by integrating the focus groups findings with the proposed theoretical OBKM framework. In the last stage of this study, an industry wide survey was carried out to validate the practice-based framework. The main outcome of this study was an OBKM framework with a proposed model and implementation guidelines for the Saudi Arabian aviation industry. It will assist the aviation organization to effectively manage aircraft engineering knowledge.
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