27.6.09

Issues on Knowledge Management in Malaysian Construction Industry

  • With its current level of quality, productivity, safety and excessive reliance on unskilled foreign workers, the state of the local construction industry is not in line with future development of Malaysia. The critical issues of Malaysian construction industry are listed as follows:

  • The country is in a difficult situation with low quality works, delays, wastages and social problems related to the employment of foreign labour.

  • Malaysia is struggling to meet its own housing needs due to the slow pace of construction and higher cost, is not able to meet the demand

  • The government of Malaysia is encouraging and supporting local contractors to participate in regional and global markets based on their expertise and experience of construction of buildings, infrastructure projects, highways, power generation, port and airport construction

  • Local workforce is also reluctant to join the industry because of the issues of low wages combined with low emphasis on occupational safety and health has created an image of dirty, difficult, dangerous (3D) industry

  • The government has published the Construction Industry Master Plan 2003-2010 (CIMP) to solve those issues and to guide practitioners at large with the future need of construction industry in Malaysia. The CIMP envisions a progressive construction sector in the future that thrive knowledge, creativity and innovation for its very survival. This will push to the mitigation to k-economy will require better human capital, research and development, innovativeness and greater concern on the issues of managing knowledge.

  • The new generation of construction in Malaysia calls for knowledge generation and better knowledge management strategy. KM has been quote as a solution to improve overall performance of construction organisation. The need for formulization of better KM strategy is lies under Strategic Thrust 4, 5 and 6 of the document. It also inline with Knowledge-based Economy Master Plan, endorsed by the government in year 2000.

  • Whilst an increasing number of construction organisations now perceive KM as an integral aspect of business improvement, the adoption of KM strategy in Malaysia construction industry faced several important shortcomings that need to be addressed:

  • The increasing numbers of contractor could lead to increased competition among them. It is an established fact that the construction industry, by nature of its strong reliance on competition, does not encourage the sharing of information amongst its members

  • Both people and the organizations in Malaysia construction industry have lack of awareness about the concept and benefits of knowledge sharing & management. To some, KM is nothing but Information management

  • There is no direct benefit can be measured using KM in construction industry

  • Lack of model or structured guideline to guide the construction firm in Malaysia on the issues of knowledge sharing. Lack of best practice showcase on KM

  • Corporate culture in Malaysian construction industry not supporting the ideas of knowledge sharing

  • The construction nature is very challenging and competitive where there is no room for genuine collaboration and knowledge sharing

  • Low profit margin in construction, discourage any future investment in so-called soft issues like KM

  • Knowledge sharing activities is on project basis or ad-hoc basis

  • In order to implement CIMP 2006-2015 and improve overall performance, the construction industry in Malaysia needs to formulate better KM strategy. It is hoping that KM will give the benefit in improving overall organisational performance and at the same time will helping the industry moving towards k-economy adoption. Both formal and informal KM approaches are imperative to the companies in term of:

  • To fill the gap in labour shortage, where knowledge is pass from one person to another. In Malaysian context, this is vital to solve the problem related to the issues of foreign workers.

  • To develop k-workers where the value of the workforce is measure trough the ideas, knowledge and experience embedding in their practice (developing human capital). Thus, creating competitiveness in Malaysia construction organisation for competing in global market

  • To capture ‘blue ocean’ market in construction industry such as the use of offsite technology and automation. The implementation of such technique requires full adoption of KM for sharing and capturing the technical knowledge

  • As a tool for transfer of technology and best practices from successful construction organisation

  • To compete internationally, particularly in Middle East, India and China market. The Malaysian construction need to compete with established firm around the world. Strong KM strategy will enable better performance and strive for better value for money in product and services

  • To gear up research on KM in Malaysia, the researcher has made a preliminary survey on KM issues. Evidence in the literature and construction organisations in practice have garnered much attention in terms of the potential benefits of KM, with little evidence of how to actually manage knowledge in practice. A lack of understanding of both knowledge (tacit and explicit) and its subsequent management within the industry indicates the need for further empirical research in the field. On the other hand, individual learning is generally supported by human resource practices, culture and organisational structures.

  • It is important that these three elements cooperate on KM initiatives so that organisational and individual learning make use of each other. These elements should not function in uncoordinated silos around learning initiatives, which is often the case in many organisations. Integration of KM initiatives thru formal and informal KM approaches with other learning initiatives will enriches the learning experience, and helps employees understand that sharing insights and experiences is at the core of continuous improvement and learning. The adoption would then require open collaboration environment internally and externally.

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