Crowdsourced Knowledge Drives Continuous Improvement on the Shop Floor.


Crowdsourced knowledge helps manufacturers reduce downtime and drive product quality at scale while building a more effective bottom-up way of working.

8 August 2022


Crowdsourcing is a curious thing. One of the earliest uses of crowdsourcing can be traced back to the 1500s, when King Phillip II of Spain awarded a cash prize to any members of the population who would help accurately calculate the longitude of vessels at sea. Today, most of us know crowdsourcing from platforms like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Anyone who has contributed to campaigns on these sites can attest to the power of this problem solving model. But what about applying crowdsourcing to drive continuous improvement on the shop floor? Crowdsourcing knowledge can be just as powerful to improve processes faster.

To put it simply: crowdsourced knowledge helps manufacturers reduce downtime and drive product quality at scale, using the frontline resources they already have.



bottom up manufacturing



Everyone's a knowledge worker.

Everyone in a company is a knowledge worker. Who better to identify process bottlenecks and suggest improvements than the people on the shop floor? Managers who overlook the knowledge and experience of their frontline workers, or fail to involve them in continuous improvement initiatives, are leaving valuable insights on the table. Sure, continuous improvement can start as a mandate from the top-down. But for it to be effective, it must involve the frontline.


Traditional vs crowdsourced procedures.

In a traditional lean or continuous improvement approach, management is tasked with analyzing the problems, setting standards, reviewing those standards, and scaling them throughout the organization to solve the key issues. While this approach can work in a small organization, where it’s easier to build trust and establish clear procedures, it’s harder to implement in large, global organizations. 


Top down manufacturing

The four key points in a traditional top-down improvement model. Simple, but difficult to scale effectively.


It’s more difficult to effectively capture feedback when your team works across multiple plants and countries. It’s also difficult to assess and improve the quality of training materials if only a small number of people are tasked with doing so. Moreover, when someone leaves, because the knowledge is limited to a handful of key people, it’s harder to transfer it to new hires.

Crowdsourced procedures take a very different approach. They start with an analysis but they involve more team members at the outset. Ideas, expertise, feedback and best practices are collected from all layers of the organization. Knowledge that might be undocumented or “silent” is collected from a diverse group of team members. This sets the foundation for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which are then reviewed by a core group of senior experts. The approved SOPs are then shared across lines, teams and sites. Frontline workers are encouraged to submit improvement ideas and feedback based on their executional experience. 


Crowdsource knowledge manufacturing

The crowdsourced approach incorporates feedback from knowledge experts at each stage.


The benefits of crowdsourcing knowledge.

The benefits of crowdsourcing are easy to identify. Just like measuring longitude to navigate safely at sea, when your entire team is involved (and rowing in the same direction), it’s easier to implement changes and improvements. It’s also easier to identify issues that may come up along the way. 

When people can contribute knowledge to the procedures that govern their day-to-day work, they also stay motivated. Motivated employees, in turn, perform better and deliver greater results. We have seen companies that successfully implement this approach reduce machine downtime by 33% and improve first-time-right by 39%. 5S metrics can also jump by up to 90% when you crowdsource knowledge from the frontline. 

Implement knowledge crowdsourcing with an easy-to-use platform.

You’ll need the right tools to crowdsource knowledge in a scalable way. As a best practice, look for solutions that will help you gather feedback and deliver knowledge on-the-job. Contact us to find out how SwipeGuide can help you build radically human instructions and standard operating procedures. 



Gloria crafts content about how the world’s top companies are rethinking how to write digital work instructions. Check out the rest of her articles to learn how innovative work instruction software can improve manufacturing processes.

8 August 2022