Case Study: Knowledge Management at Titan Industries

Case Study: Knowledge Management at Titan Industries

 

by Madanmohan Rao

Editor, The KM Chronicles http://bit.ly/TU12l 

http://twitter.com/MadanRao 

Bangalore; December 2010

 

The Bangalore K-Community, the monthly gathering of knowledge management professionals and practitioners in Bangalore, was held at the offices of Titan Industries (www.titanworld.comwww.titan.co.in) on Wednesday December 22.

  

C S Ramesh, Vice President IT & Knowledge Management of Titan Industries, traced the company’s growth and launch of its KM initiative. Titan Industries operates in the watch, jewellery and eyewear sectors, as well as precision engineering for aerospace and automobile.

  

Titan was launched in 1984, Tanishq jewelry in 1996, and the eyewear division in 2007. With a turnover of Rs 6,000 crore, Titan is the fifth largest branded watch manufacturer in the world. Its watch brands include Titan, Sonata, Fastrack and Xylys. The combination of multibrand stores, large format stores, precision engineering and fierce competition call for rapid learning across the workforce.

  

The Titan network has over 600 stores in India, and is the largest jewellery retailer in India (via Tanishq, GoldPlus, Zoya stores). Tanishq gives employment to hundreds of artisans through karigar parks.

 

KM at Titan was conceived of as a Tata group initiative in 2005, with formal launch of the portal and related tools in 2006. The ERP SAP portal and process design were devised in such a way that KM was not forced on people, but became a natural part of their work, Ramesh explained.

 

Titan’s KM vision is to institutionalise knowledge sharing; this is facilitated via vehicles like portals, CoPs, and the internal Quest magazine. Titan’s KM initiative is a blend of information, collaboration and communication.

 

“KM has proven very useful for our manufacturing experts,” said A C Chidanand, Divisional manager IT & KM at Titan Industries. All communication is handled via the portal, with minimal email to reduce information overload and facilitate re-use. The portal also targets sales reps who have a lot of tacit knowledge about their territories and business relationships, and are fairly mobile in terms of location. 

The KM journey at Titan covers 100 odd departments, 1,550+ users, and 100+ business processes. Though the watches and jewellery divisions are handled separately, Titan leverages commonalities in process and function across the divisions.

 

Titan has designed a KM prioritisation matrix for operations and processes by parameters such as specialisation, movement of people and business risk. Other factors for deciding high/low/medium KM priority include geographic spread, and integration with departments already on portal.

  

The 7 Pacts framework of KM at Titan covers products, process, people, performance, policies, partners and projects. It is applied to assets, customers, technology and strategies at Titan. For each of the 7 pacts, Titan mapped knowledge assets and processes for each department.

  

KM covers a range of activities at Titan, including environmental initiatives, sharing customer delight tips, and screen defect visualisation. Knowledge assets shared include market research documents, spare part drawings, ISO documentation, retail manuals and brands standards.

  

Comments from engineering discussions to shop customers are entered in the KM portal, making them ripe for browsing and analysis. The KM portal is also used for informal knowledge sharing between sales staff (eg. for information on commutes) – this draws them to formal sharing as well. Sharing of knowledge is facilitated via cross-functional teams and virtual project rooms.

 

Customer reps document how they converted potential non-sales into sales; other sales reps can browse through this and give more advice. Retailers are also given freedom to innovate; eg free mehndi to get women to come into stores and try new watches. Some of these practices for promoting watch sales can also be used for jewellery. The sales portal is used for heavy rapid knowledge exchanges during festive seasons, eg. on use of elephants and camels as promotional props! KM is also applied to revenue streams like service centres, via documentation of best practices.

 

“On average we had 400 ideas a day coming via our KM portal during the festive season across the country. Some of these ideas could be used in other cities, and some can be used again next year as well,” said Chidanand. The idea management initiative has anchors, sponsors and assessors for each set of ideas.

 

Titan’s Innovation Bazaar drew over 300 entries last year, and more than 100 were selected. Managers gave their teams time off from daily operational activities to participate in the Innovation Bazaar. All finalists, not just winners, were showcased on the KM portal during the Innovation Bazaar. Titan retains knowledge about inapplicable innovations, in case they can be revisited later.

  

Titan also has a function called Innovedge, which is focused not on core R&D but on scouting for existing technologies and apps in the market to see what can be tapped. A good example of Innovedge in the watch section was the identification of USB watches.

 

CoPs at Titan cover activities ranging from retailing, customer service and showroom to maintenance, quality and tool manufacturing. The quality CoP is very popular, and has cross-pollination across a range of domains in interesting and unanticipated ways. KM CoPs are used by technicians as well as receptionists, and are enhanced during regional and functional meetups.

 

As compared to the engineering department, KM at the store level was a slow process to bootstrap, and it took Titan four years for full KM rollout at this level. “Slow and steady is the best approach,” advises Chidanand. “We have to increase our knowledge about local markets. We also acknowledge that some local practices may not apply elsewhere.”

  

Interestingly, Titan did not institute awards or rewards for KM; the initiative was designed in such a way that knowledge sharing was an expected and habitual behaviour, and not something out of the routine. “We also did not want to unnecessarily cause heartburn for those who thought they should have won the award instead,” explained Chidanand.

 

The K-Community gathering had an international visitor this time: Waltraut Ritter, KM consultant and professor based in Hong Kong, and a scholar on IP practices in Europe, China and India. She expressed interest in learning about the KM initiative’s contributions to intellectual capital and patents at Titan.

 

Ramesh stressed that the KM initiative was not focused just on hard metrics the way an ERP implementation would be viewed, but on creating a culture of collaboration and reuse. While there are clear metrics on hand, there are limits as well – and Ramesh joked that people these days do not ask about RoI of telephones in a company! He also quipped that sometimes sales people, like doctors, do not always write or document well.

 

However, Titan has developed a comprehensive range of metrics covering KM outcomes: deployment (management), usage (eg. product stories, feedback) and effectiveness (eg. kaizens).

 

Quarterly reviews track business benefits and gains from the KM initiative. Brand stories are circulated via the KM portal, which is also used for tracking the competition. Titan’s artwork and creatives are documented and explained via the portal. Titan has used social media like Facebook for conducting surveys; internal use of Wikis is also on the KM roadmap.

 

Key lessons learnt, according to Chidanand, include synergising knowledge initiatives across diverse sectors, eg. watches and jewels, in the case of Titan Industries. “Seek out commonalities in different domains and try to cross-pollinate where relevant,” he advised.

 

“Ensure that everyone has something interesting to update, upload or learn. Address key business issues and workflow requirements through the portal,” he added. Even the “simplest” kinds of activities are ripe for knowledge sharing and improvement; for instance, tips on simple things like effective colour coding of packages and parts are also good practices, observed Chidanand.

 

K-Community participants from across a wide range of sectors commended Titan on its comprehensive and systematic KM initiative; we look forward to further updates as the Titan group of industries expands its inter-organisational KM initiatives! In sum, this was a great way to end 2010 and set the stage for more knowledge excellence in 2011.

 

Background reading: knowledge management and innovation at Titan http://bit.ly/gNBZsv   http://bit.ly/ebq20T   http://bit.ly/gV4ZeH  

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