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Harnessing intellectual capital

This article appears in the issue April 2004 (100 Companies) [Volume 13, Issue 4]

A global knowledge management initiative is delivering results for GE Medical Systems. The initial step in a phased implementation has helped the company create a knowledge exchange for best practices in problem resolution, shortened time to repair and increased customer satisfaction.

GE Medical Systems provides mobile X-ray equipment for hospitals and surgical centers worldwide and receives more than 1,000 equipment part inquiries and service questions each month. Field service engineers often encountered problems they had not seen before, prompting them to call tech support for further help. Because there was no central repository of problem solutions or easy search tool, troubleshooting could take a long time. Consequently, the company wanted a system to promote knowledge transfer among its support personnel and to improve customer service by reducing time to repair.

"The growth of our installed base and the increase in field service engineers required us to expand our knowledgebase of our existing tech support team," explains Kelly Andersen, manager of global service support operations for GE Medical Systems OEC. "Previously, problems and associated solutions were found in multiple locations, including our employees' heads. That made it difficult to access this critical data quickly around the globe. We needed a tool to help us centralize this vast amount of information and quickly get to it."

The company decided to implement case-based search and knowledgebase authoring technology from empolis. The initial phase required building and populating a database of problem/solution pairs that can be easily tapped by the help desk and field support personnel wherever they're located. The knowledge system's success depends on flexible search capabilities that can use similar past problems as the guidelines for diagnosis and repair of newly reported problems.

According to empolis, the support team can call up data by parameters such as error codes, part name/number, or by natural language queries. Results include an explanation of why certain matches were returned--describing similarities and perfect matches based on a "knowledge model." The knowledge model lets GE Medical Systems OEC incorporate domain-specific information into the search algorithm, such as relationships between product models, commonly used terms and equipment failure symptoms that are similar. To make the knowledge system smarter, users can submit feedback to indicate the success of the solution to fine-tune future searches.

The next phase of the implementation will help the field support staff use the system in real time while offline at the customer site.


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