Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

 Knowledge management at Ford – “People don’t know about what they don’t know” (Full Version)

DATE: Will be calculated from "Release Start Date" field.

Timo Schünemann (Technical Specialist Stamping Engineering), Bernd Peter (Senior Engineer Dimensional Control) , David Bridge (GB Business IT SE&SE Quality), Dr. Werner Klein (Manager Quality Excellence​)
Related Materials

At Ford Motor Company a lot of standards, procedures and directives are developed which employees have to comply with during the course of their daily business thus ensuring an efficient and successful business environment. These documents are stored on different locations such as SharePoints, EDMS, Wiki or shared drives. The dynamic and ongoing development within Ford has a direct effect on this set of documents: updates are made, storage locations change, additional documents are created and others are deleted. Keeping track of these changes proves to be difficult.

So, how does someone manage such an enormous and permanently changing bulk of information?

Is there something out there that helps Ford-employees find the information they need in a fast and easy way in addition to ensuring that these documents are up to date?

The answer is the “Registry”, a new Quality IT application, which has been added to the official Quality portfolio of Ford Motor Company in May 2014 after a complex development period.

The Registry – Find fast and stay up to date

The Registry is basically a search engine with managed links which enables you to locate quickly and easily corporate documents such as procedures or directives. The application contains only the links to the storage location of the master-documents. There is no document stored in the Registry itself.

An extensive search function gives users the possibility to search for specific documents i.e. a procedure or for complete lists i.e. all Ford Automotive Procedures (FAPs).
You can also use the advanced search menu to further limit the search results.
The URL forwarding to the different storage locations ensures that all access restrictions remain. So you do not have to worry if your secret documents are registered in the Registry. The security controls in place on the storage location prevents unauthorized access.

The Registry also gives departments the possibility to create a Master Document List (MDL); it is one of the five pillars of the Quality Management System at Ford. A MDL includes all required documents employees of a specific department have to comply with during their daily business. It is mandatory for all departments to create a MDL. During ISO 9001 or General Auditors Office (GAO) audits the MDL might be checked regarding missing or out of date entries. The MDL supports the familiarisation with new tasks, especially new employees into a department.

Many departments have a MDL in the form of an Excel-Sheet, but the entries are in many cases not checked and updated regularly.

The Registry simplifies this process. Each department who uses the Registry has its own coordinator. He is authorized to apply changes in all entries, not only within his own MDL. If he updates an entry then the changes are automatically adopted in all affected MDLs. That reduces the amount of work involved in the maintenance of the Registry. Today the Registry already includes 143 coordinators worldwide.

However the coordinators are not solely responsible for the up to date accuracy of the entries in the Registry, the support of all employees is needed. If they change anything in a document, they should check if the entry in the Registry also has to be updated (e.g. new storage location). In this case they should contact their coordinator.

Figure 1: Functionality Registry

A brief History - “Regardless of the length of the road, you have to move the first step”   

Today in 2014 nearly 5000 documents are registered in the Registry and already 341 departments use the application. But it had started very small. It took a long time growing from a so called “Shadow IT-Software” – that means a software application which is not included in the official IT-portfolio of Ford – to an official IT application.

The idea originated in the Vehicle Operations Manufacturing Engineering (VOME) department in 2000. Bernd Peter was ISO Coordinator and responsible for the execution of internal ISO 9001 audits and the review of the documentation. At that time all departments had several ring binders with procedures or directives in hard copy. This solution ensured neither an easy accessibility of the documents to all employees nor a guaranteed up to date accuracy. Based on these facts Bernd Peter came up with the idea of centralising and digitalising the document management. The first version of the Registry was programed by an external agency whereas the original name was VOPISO (Vehicle Operations ISO). The basic idea: We create a connection between employees and documents to improve the maintenance and accessibility of corporate documents. This basic idea has remained up to today, only the realization was not yet matured. The tool only differentiated between four types of documents, which could be registered. At that time only four departments at Ford used the Registry. If you wanted to add another department, you had to contact the external programmer. He had to edit it by hand within HTML. Ford-internal coordinators were able to create new documents or to assign documents to a department. But the execution was elaborate and complicated.
It was also difficult for employees to use the Registry because of missing search- and filter options. If you did not have the specific term of the required document in your mind, then you had to tediously pass through long lists in the hope to find what you wanted.

In 2004 Timo Schuenemann, Technical Specialist at Stamping Engineering, became the main user of the Registry because of personnel changes in VOME. He realized immediately that the application showed a high optimization potential. “Nobody realised what can be created out of it”, Timo says. For a long time he worked as a CP3 method developer. So he already gathered experiences with optimising programs. His creativity and common sense always helped him to derive the maximum benefit. That is why he decided to take matters into his own hand. Because of his affinity for IT and previous knowledge in programming it was easier for Timo moving forward. His focus during the development of the application was intuition: Which functions are necessary to form the handling of the Registry as user-friendly and intuitive as possible?
In the same year Timo implemented extensive search- and filter options. He also simplified the maintenance of the Registry i.e. the adding and editing of documents or the assigning of documents to department lists. He has not had a master plan from the beginning. “The individual functions build upon one another”, Timo remembered these days.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” (Henry Ford)

In 2008 an ISO 9001-auditor became aware of the Registry during an internal audit at VOME. He expressed the wish that Vehicle Operation (VO) and Powertrain Operation (PTO) should also use the application. This was the start of the roll out of the Registry, which implicated an advancement of the functionality. Henceforward it was possible for coordinators to add new departments with just a few clicks. The “applicability matrix” gave users an overview in which departments a document was applicable.
The Registry was also further communicated through the Quality Team Meeting, which quality representatives from all divisions of Ford of Europe attended. The result was that more and more departments wanted to use the new application. Thereby the number of documents increased consistently. To provide a user-friendly handling Timo implemented a function with which coordinators can easily and quickly create new document types. Afterwards the number of document types increased from initial 4 to more than 40 in a few years.

The efforts which have been made over several years paid off. Already 222 departments used the Registry in 2011. This success is due to the perseverance of Timo. It started with a basic idea and ended in a perfectly sophisticated IT application which supported employees during their daily business. But even though the Registry has been improved, the application still remained a “Shadow IT Application”, this means it is software that is not recognised within the official IT-Portfolio of Ford Motor Company.
At the end of 2011 Dr. Werner Klein, Quality Excellence Manager at Ford Europe, addressed the challenge to convince the IT-Team of the benefit of the Registry so that the application would be added to the official IT-Portfolio. A team was set up which should manage this project.
David Bridge recalls, “It was a slow start and the priority from a Business IT Perspective was low” David was involved from IT as Business IT coordinator and project manager. “A lot of people were involved in the project, which hindered the project start and getting agreements”. Four items had to be clarified by the project team:

1. IT had to be convinced of the benefit of the Registry
2. The technical migration from a single Prod server to full IT supported environment and upgrading middleware to supported versions
3. The funding had be agreed
4. Last but not least the tool had to be launched with full IT support.

That sounds quite easy, but in reality it was much more difficult due to the now, non-standard and out dated technologies in use and also the need to ensure the appropriate IT support teams understood the application and what was needed moving forward as an IT supported application.

The biggest challenge was finding time for discussions. Because of the size of the project team there were often big time gaps between the certain meetings due to calendar availabilities. It was the core team – consisting of Timo Schuenemann, Dr. Werner Klein and David Bridge - who continued to move the project forward. Due to Quality and IT priorities it took more than two years from the initial formal request to migrate the application into the Quality Portfolio until all open issues were resolved and the technical migration was complete.
IT did not make any changes to the functionality of the Registry. The program code, which was developed by Timo over the years, was copied across to new supported servers with only minor code revisions to address IT Security, IT standards and technical refresh aspects. IT implemented new servers (Dev/QA/Prod) and upgraded the versions for Oracle and PHP-versions.

In May 2014 the project team reached the final stage: the launch. It was a special moment for the whole project team, especially for Timo Schuenemann, when the status of the Registry was changed from “Shadow IT-Software” to “Production-IT”.

The successful launch proves that “Go Further” really works at Ford. It started with a simple idea more than ten years ago. With the commitment of Timo Schuenemann and the support of Dr. Werner Klein and David Bridge, a software solution and business tool was developed out of this idea which is now officially available for all Ford-employees worldwide.

Could this article arouse your curiosity? Are you interested to learn how to use the Registry? Then please take a look at the FAQs.



9/3/2014 4:00 AM