Knowledge Management is a vast and diverse topic that must be addressed by all modern industrial companies, from the smallest SMEs to the most complex organizations. Knowledge is a critical and strategic asset and the key to competitiveness in the modern manufacturing environment, as it facilitates capacities essential for achieving the required responsiveness, flexibility, agility and innovation. Nevertheless, knowledge itself is difficult to explicate and capture, and often can be recognized only in the improvements it brings to products, technologies and enterprise organizations.
Four years ago, members of the CIRP community submitted a proposal to the 6th EU Framework Programme to establish a Network of Excellence (NoE). The European Community accepted this proposal, and thus the Virtual Research Laboratory - Knowledge Community in Production (VRL-KCiP) network was launched. The network set out to create a Knowledge Community in Production that would provide support and knowledge to EU industry. This goal was achieved thanks to (a) the ongoing cooperation and collaboration among the network partners, who represent leading universities worldwide, and (b) additional strong member partnerships with laboratories outside of Europe (Japan, Australia, South Africa, USA, and others).
The main efforts of the VRL-KCiP NoE were aimed at aiding European manufacturing industry in defining and structuring its strategic knowledge in order to meet worldwide strategic challenges. These challenges, detailed below, have remained constant over the four years of the network's activities:
Manufacturing must become knowledge intensive, given the demand for high-tech products (e.g. electronics, medicines).
Given the relatively high labor costs in Europe compared to those in developing countries, manufacturing processes in Europe require high levels of expertise to realize required productivity.
As a result of these challenges, over the past 30 years knowledge management (KM) has become a major issue in Europe, in academia as well as in industry. Indeed, firms have recognized that cultivating the "knowledge resource" is essential for management as well as for operations.
The aim of this book is to help readers understand the complex topic of knowledge. Moreover, it underlines why knowledge is one of the most important strategic issues in achieving future manufacturing competitiveness.
The book is a collection of 34 complementary contributions written by researchers from multinational locations and multidisciplinary perspectives. This book is unique in that it is based on the collective experience of these researchers and represents the status and current issues in the study and implementation of Knowledge Management today.
The book describes fundamental concepts in knowledge and knowledge management and provides several case studies in the fields of design and manufacturing. In particular, the book presents several very original examples of knowledge management and knowledge sharing in the context of European manufacturing. Actual experiences and feedbacks are presented with respect to knowledge engineering approaches for design, manufacturing, and more generally for enterprise engineering. Moreover, methods and tools for knowledge integration within the extended enterprise and the value chain are described, and the role of knowledge management and documents in supporting radical innovation projects is also highlighted.
The book discusses ontology, which constitutes the basis for formalizing and mapping knowledge from different points of view. Concrete examples are described and elaborated, mainly with respect to product, process and resource description and management along the lifecycle of mechanical systems.
Moreover, the book outlines the knowledge management efforts within the VRL-KCiP network. These efforts include (a) realizing a common knowledge management capability in the multilingual, multinational, multidisciplinary distributed research lab, and (b) developing a knowledge map, which now forms the basis for efficient collaboration within the VRL-KCiP consortium. In addition, the benefits of developing networks of experts and shared knowledge among multi-cultural communities are highlighted.
It is our hope that this book will offer you new insight into the topic of knowledge management in the European manufacturing context.

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