paper has the objective of investigating the role of the knowledge management
of the local firms in regards of the new competitive global scenario of the
Brazilian ceramic tiles industry. In a more specific way, I focuses on the
dynamics of two main local production systems, located in the region of
Criciúma, in the state of Santa Catarina and in Santa Gertrudes, in the state
Key words: Knowledge management; Local production systems; Brazilian industry, Ceramic tile, Global value chain
In today's innovation-driven world, the knowledge management and learning have become the key success factors of competitiveness of the firms. Knowledge-acquisition is one part of knowledge management which, in turn, has been defined as the process of critically managing knowledge to meet existing needs, to identify and exploit existing and acquired knowledge assets and to develop new opportunities (Gavigan et al, 1999).
One of the challenges to knowledge transfer or acquisition is how to codify.
According to Hall (2006) codification of knowledge into information has to be
seen as the predominant mechanism by which knowledge transfer in organizations
can be achieved. In the knowledge management literature,
Tacit knowledge is considered to be a vital component in innovation processes (Grant, 1996; Hall, 1993; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). To transfer tacit knowledge is however difficult due to factors like culture, language and other circumstances in the environment where the knowledge was created (Swan et al., 2000). When knowledge is transferred it is suggested that knowledge has first to be internalized by the receiving individual before it can be used (Schonstrom, 2005).
The main knowledge management activity of organizations is to package up knowledge as information in order to move it from A to B. However, the empirical research will show that codification involves more than simply the codification of knowledge into information.
Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) are talking about codification of previously "tacit" knowledge in their distinction of a movement between tacit and explicit forms of knowledge. Codification of knowledge in this sense may involve the use of language to articulate, describe, explain, etc. While there is considerable debate over whether Polanyi's concept of tacit knowledge effectively defies codification the codification can simply be taken as a process by which knowledge is made explicit, whether it be "tacit" knowledge or not.
The generation and diffusion of knowledge can be stimulated by the location proximity among the main sources. Much of the advantage of such collaboration is thought to come from efficiencies in collective learning (Belussi, 1999). Geographical proximity is thought to be important for innovative activity whether understood as generating economic externalities or spillovers of knowledge (Audretsch and Feldman, 1994) or facilitating inter-organizational transmission of tacit knowledge via human capital mobility.
Any exploration of geographic proximity leads directly to studies of successful knowledge sharing inside industrial clusters (Porter, 1998). Regional and local innovation systems, industrial districts, learning regions, local production systems and agglomeration economies are other labels given to the phenomenon of geographically co-located firms in a value chain collaborating in some fashion in order to gain a measure of collective efficiency (Rabellotti and Schmitz, 1999).
The observation of local production systems is not new with most researchers
referring back to
2. The Brazilian Local Systems In The Ceramic Tile Industry
2.1. The Local Systems Of Criciúma
The industry of
ceramic tiles of Criciúma appears as the most traditional productive center in
This crisis brought about significant restructuring movements by local manufacturers, especially among large companies. This restructuring involved the switched off of old manufacturing lines and the opening of new ones, expansion of production, building and acquisition of industrial plants, modernization of equipment, in addition to changes in organizational and managerial structures.
Within this process of production restructuring, there was also the decentralization of several local companies. Before this period, many companies exerted internally the activities of glazing material production and enameling, which meant that the companies were forced to maintain within their structures activities linked to the chemical industry. From the 90s onwards, this strategy truly showed itself problematic, as the ceramic companies were no longer able to accompany the more accelerated pace of dissemination of innovations by the companies specialized in glazing materials.
For this reason, companies which possessed internal activities in the area of enameling were impelled to abandon these activities. For the glazing material companies born from this change, it was possible to centralize the efforts of product development, intensifying this activity and the efforts associated with it. The glazing material companies started not only to sell their products to manufacturers of ceramic tiles, but also to offer a combination of correlated products and services, among which were the design of tiles and counseling in the manufacturing process, specially with reference to the adaptation of new products and processes applied to raw material and to the other demands of the manufacturers.
This, however, has
a negative side for the Brazilian industry, as pointed out by some authors such
as Ferraz (2002). These strategies of glazing material companies, mainly of the
foreign companies in
vector of the restructuring process of the ceramic tile industry of Criciúma
was the modernization of the manufacturing plants of local firms, through strong
investments on capital goods. This implied a high volume of capital goods
imports, mainly from
As a result of these productive, technological and organizational restructuring processes, the ceramic tile firms began to focus their efforts on their main activity, the production of ceramic tiles. At the same time, this stimulated the creation and the growth of new companies in related activities, as in the case of the glazing material industry, resulting in an increase in the complexity of the local system. In the middle of the 2000s, the local system was then composed by about 10 companies of ceramic tiles, 14 suppliers of raw materials (among producers and distributors, but all of them with several services which were rendered to the tile companies) and 5 manufacturers of machinery, equipment and replacement parts (data from local institutions).
In addition, this increase in complexity of the local system of Criciúma created new spaces for the action of local institutions, closely linked to a more qualified demand by local ceramic tile manufacturers.
An example of this
movement was the creation of the
The main objective of the creation of the Technological Center was the establishment of an organization capable of rendering technical and technological services to local manufacturers, such as analysis of materials, experiments and laboratory tests, certification of products and productive processes, technological information, in addition to the development of research and development projects in conjunction with local companies linked to the productive chain. Among the most important services, it is worthy of mention the creation of a specialized structure for carrying out tests for certification of quality of products.
The laboratory of
This university joined two other institutions of technical level. First is the Maximiliano Gaidzinski technical training school, who is dedicated to the teaching at the technical level. This school became the most important institution for obtaining technical apprenticeship in the country, supplying technicians for companies throughout the country. Second is the course of technical level of the region by another local institution, called SENAI.
Finally, we bring
forth the existence of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Materials of the
Federal University of Santa Catarina (LabMat-UFSC). Despite its location in the
We can notice, in this
context, the presence of a huge institutional framework to foster and support
local manufacturers, both with reference to the technical learning and training
as well as with what concerns the technical and technological services and in
the development of research projects linked to the activities of local
manufacturers. However, several authors point out (Meyer-Stamer et al, 2004;
Meyer-Stamer, 1998; Meyer-Stamer & Seibel, 2002; Ferraz 2002) that
difficulties in relationships between firms and local institutions have
prevented the establishment of more numerous and longer lasting joint projects
among those involved. As an example, there were very few projects which have
been taking place between local companies and the
Thus, although the response of the local companies to the stimulation of competition in the internal market has indicated an increase of efforts and of innovative activities, companies do not take full advantage of the institutional apparatus available. Then, the producers could not benefit themselves from all the positive external services which are generated by the industrial clustering.
2.2. The Industrial District Of Santa Gertrudes
production system of ceramic tiles of Santa Gertrudes, and the surrounding
area, is located in the hinterland of the state of
in manufacturing plants allowed the local firms a strong growth during the 90s,
having taken great advantage of the increasing demand for ceramic tiles in
The first key factor is the importance of the availability of raw material at low cost in the region and its characteristics which together allow the local firms to make use of the dry process. Although this ceramic tile production process presents slightly inferior technical characteristics in comparison to the water process, it presents substantially lower costs. These lower costs are associated with the facility in obtaining and extracting clay from nature and to the lower production costs, considering that the production process takes place in a much shorter period of time and with abundant economy of energy.
The second key factor in the fast growth of the local system of Santa Gertrudes was the huge investments of firms in the manufacturing process modernization, specially through the acquisition of up-to-dated technologically capital goods. In addition to the acquisition of modern ovens used in the process of burning, the companies acquired new systems of raw-material preparation, which permitted reaching lower grain size and provided improvements in the process of granulation and humidification. It is worth to underline the important role exerted by the suppliers, above all Italians, of capital goods for the local firms since they allowed the fast modernization of the local plants by the adaptation of machinery to the characteristics of the local production process.
In this way, the growth of the ceramic tiles firms of Santa Gertrudes brought together the creation and the reproduction of capabilities among firms in the manufacturing area, as becomes clear in the process of technological modernization of the production process. We should underline that the Italian suppliers of machinery and equipment had a key role in the development of these capabilities and for the local knowledge management.
In addition, we
must point out the importance of two other factors which contributed for the
growth of forms, which are the suppliers of glazing materials and the local
service-rendering institutions, specially CITEC –
In the case of glazing material suppliers, their role was particularly important because of the new characteristics of the competition process in the ceramic tiles industry, in which the product development product were, to a great extent, transferred to the glazing materials suppliers. Since the local ceramic tiles firms did not have in-house product development departments, they could make use of the services of their suppliers, and they could not establish their own structures for product development. In general, the local firms attend to a low and medium income consumer, in which the requirements of product are far less important. Thus, the labs of the local ceramic tiles producers were not established in-house but they relied on products which were designed by their suppliers. This had an important effect on the fast growth of local manufacturers, since they did not need to develop capabilities in the product development area.
institution was the Technological Center (CITEC). Inaugurated in
In this sense, the
3. The Brazilian Local Production Systems And The New International Competition
In face of this competitive global landscape in the ceramic tile industry, there are some factors that did impact on the dynamics of the Brazilian industry and more specifically on the knowledge creation and diffusion in local production systems of ceramic tile of Criciúma and Santa Gertrudes.
The new landscape
of international market in the ceramic tile industry, as well as other
industries, shows the strengthen of the pattern of competition, because of the growth
This is one of the main
differences of the Brazilian ceramic tiles industry and the experiences of
other countries such as
On the other hand,
the imports of ceramic tiles in
In this context,
Finally, we need to point out the origins of the knowledge outflow and the accumulation of capabilities in the Brazilian ceramic tiles industry and, more specifically, among producers located in the two most important local production systems. As pointed out, the growth of this industry in the last few years has been accompanied by important qualitative changes, with reference to the creation and accumulation of technical and productive capabilities.
The first of these
factors were the suppliers of capital goods, mainly from
The second factor was the interaction with suppliers of chemical raw materials, specially glazing, frits and ceramic colorants used in ceramic tiles manufaturing. Once more, the interactions with the glazing material suppliers represent an important source of knowledge, since they allowed the ceramic tiles producers to add new patterns of product design and new characteristics to their goods. The interaction with the glazing material suppliers was particularly important because these firms has assumed an important role in the knowledge creation and diffusion, while they are the main players in the product development processes, by supplying it for the ceramic tiles manufacturers. In the case of the companies in the local system of Criciúma, these interactions created conditions for the manufacturers to incorporate new elements to tiles with higher value added. In the case of producers of Santa Gertrudes, the interactions with the glazing material suppliers foster a fast growth, since they did not internalize capabilities in the product development area, because these tasks are done by their suppliers. So, local firms just have to integrate the development of products to their manufacturing process. By transferring these capabilities for the ceramic tiles producers, the glazing material suppliers did an important role in the diffusion of knowledge among the firms fo the local system, since they could put into their products this kind of capability.
should point out the role of local institutions which rendered services to
manufacturers. The importance of the service-oriented institutions was
particularly seen in the case of the local system of Santa Gertrudes, in which
Audretsch, D. & Feldman, M. (1994). R&D spillovers and the geography of innovation and production. The American Economic Review 86, 630–640.
Belussi, F. (1999). Policies for the development of knowledge intensive local
Ferraz, G. (2002) Nota Técnica Final da Cadeia Cerâmica. In: Coutinho, L; Ferraz, J.C. coords. Estudo da Competitividade de Cadeias Integradas no Brasil. Brasília: MDIC/MCT/FINEP.
Gavigan, J.P., Ottitsch, M. & Mahroum, S. (1999) Knowledge and Learning Towards
Grant, R.M. (1996), "Prospering in dynamically-competitive environments: organizational capability as knowledge integration", Organization Science, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 375-87.
Hall, R. (1993), "A framework for linking intangible resources and capabilities to sustainable competitive advantage", Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 14, pp. 607-18.
Meyer-Stamer, J. & Altenburg, T (1999) How to Promote Clusters: Policy
J. (1998) Path Dependence in Regional Development: Persistence and Change in
Three Industrial Clusters in
Meyer-Stamer, J., Maggi, C. & Seibel, S. (2004) Upgrading
in the Tile Industry of Italy,
Meyer-Stamer, J. & Seibel, S. (2002) Cluster, Value Chain and the Rise and Decline of Collective Action: The Case of the Tile Industry in SC/BRASIL. Draft, project: The Interaction of Global and Local Governance: Implications for Industria Upgrading. www.Ids.ac.uk/global/vw.html; acessed: 24/june/2004.
Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995), The Knowledge-creating Company: How
Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation, Oxford University Press,
Porter, M. (1998). Clusters and the new economics of competition. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 76, pp. 77–90.
Rabellotti, R. & Schmitz, H. (1999). The internal heterogeneity of
industrial districts in
Ruggles, R.L. (1997), Tools for knowledge management: an introduction, in
Ruggles, R. (Ed.), Knowledge Management
Russo, M. (1985) Technical Change and the Industrial District: The Role of
Interfirm Relations in the Growth and Transformation of Ceramic Tile Production
Russo, M. (2004). Processi di innovazione nei distretti e globalizzazione: Il caso di Sassuolo. Economia e Societá Regionale, no. 3, Franco Angeli.
Schönström, M. (2005) Creating knowledge networks: lessons from practice. Journal of Knowledge Management. Kempston:.Vol. 9, No. 6, pp. 17 - 30.
Scur, G & Garcia, R.(2004) Relatório Setorial Cerâmica de Revestimento. Diretório da Pesquisa Privada, FINEP. Avaliable: http://www.finep.gov.br/PortalDPP/relatorio_setorial/impressao_relatorio.asp?lst_setor=261 date: accessed: 15 April 2007.
Swan, J. (2000), "Limits of IT-driven knowledge management initiatives
for interactive innovation processes: towards a community-based approach",
Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii
International Conference on System Sciences,
Contact the Authors:
Renato Garcia, Production Engineering, Polytechnical School, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil; Email: email@example.com
Gabriela Scur, Production Engineering, FEI University, São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil